Moving and inspiring: final article from Yale graduate, days before dying in accident

Click here to read “The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan

This afternoon, while finding excuses not to read for class, I happened to come across an article which featured the picture of a lovely young woman. I found out that she was a recent Yale graduate who died last week, a mere five days after graduating from the prestigious institution. I read the article, noted what a pity it was, but barely gave it a second thought.

Marina Keegan was riding in a car with her boyfriend in Massachusetts when the young man lost control of the automobile. Keegan died at the scene of the accident, her boyfriend was hospitalized and released shortly after. She had been set to move to New York next month to begin writing for the New Yorker. As an undergraduate, she had been an active force on campus.

Truly an individual who had everything going for her.

Later in the day, I happened to see a posting of the final article she ever wrote. It had appeared in a special graduation addition of the Yale Daily News. I decided to read. She talks of graduation. She writes about having a sense of community in college and the natural fears and apprehensions associated with leaving that safety, but also, the opportunity for what the future held. I found the piece to be insightful and – her sense of optimism – refreshing. But in light of the tragedy which befell her so soon after writing this piece, it also proved to be tragically ironic.

“let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us… I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old…We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. ”
-excerpts from Marina Keegan

I think it’s difficult to read her final essay without a sense of fatalism. She talks about the future and what can be accomplished, but we’re left to read her words knowing that she is deprived of the future which she encouraged her classmates to seize. It is yet another reminder of the brevity of life and that while we should plan for the future and hope for tomorrow, ultimately, we have this day and this moment to make the most of what we have.

Whenever I see stories of talented people dying when they have so much life yet to live, it strikes me. I see her picture. I wonder what she was thinking when it was taken. I think of how excited and nervous she must have been just a few days ago in anticipation of commencement and moving on to the next step of life, totally unaware of the all to sudden end which loomed.

I’m not suggesting that we ought to live in fear, but I feel like a true respect for how fragile life can be is so often times elusive when we’re young. But it becomes so easy for us to waste time and to get caught up in things which are insignificant. At any given moment, our lives can be over. We need to focus on the things that matter: deciding what we really believe about our faith, forgiving people, loving our families and our friends.

Newspapers and other media outlets from across the country have picked up the story of the young student’s death and her final article has gone viral, receiving hundreds of thousands of views.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are tragic stories everyday, and most of those stories don’t get much attention. With this story, we have something to grab onto, something which connects us to Marina. We have her words. We have a part of her soul.

As the irony which seems to be the fate of so many wonderful writers and artists, Marina never lived to see her contribution which would have the greatest impact and move the most people. For those of us who are left, it is a sobering reminder. While she didn’t know how the meaning of her words could carry a different impact in death, we read these words in hindsight and have a new sense of context and the piece takes on a whole new life.

Rest in Peace.