For there cannot exist the peak of a mountain without the base.

When good things come to an end.

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Photo by Nicole Mason on Unsplash.

We crave joy. There isn’t anything quite like sharing a belly laugh with some of your best friends or family members. It’d be nice if we found joy daily: interspersed equally throughout the day, jolting us with enough dopamine to hold us over until the next dose. It tends not to work like that, unfortunately.

The hardest part about joy is that it has to come to an end. For small doses of joy, the end is hardly perceptible. Rarely whenever we’re in the midst of making a lifelong memory is it immediately noticeable. The most joyful moments seem to come spontaneously; when you’re in the midst of a conversation peppered with jokes and comments until it boils over into a contagious feeling of ecstasy. Time, your problems slip away like the clocks in Salvadore Dali’s painting. The memories in our minds are colored by the emotions we experienced when they occurred. For the most memorable of our memories, they’re usually covered with tears caused by both laughter and crying.

Salvadore Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory.”

Mere days after my sister’s death, I wrote her obituary. Even writing that sentence feels surreal. It was difficult to capture my sister’s life in a few paragraphs. To reduce a human life full of relationships, experiences, memories, roles, and life to a 2x5 space in the newspaper or entry on Obituary.com is almost dystopian. Our lives, all of which we feel as equally as vibrantly as one another, become something so insignificant at the end. We persist through memories, but the process of writing a couple of noticeable things about somebody followed by who they are preceded in death by and who survives them is a reduction to the furthest degree. We are bigger than that.

I knew the coldness of writing my sister’s obituary had to be paralleled by the warmest possible eulogy. I think it’s good to cry, especially for men and in public, but to deliver the best possible eulogy, I had to go all out by recording a video.

I knew recording a video would allow me to express my deeply felt emotions, but I’d be able to plan it a bit better and eliminate the nerves associated with discussing my sister’s legacy. More so, I had to do it in a way that would genuinely honor Alyssa; a speech just wouldn’t cut it. In my eulogy, I talked about her strength, her resolve, our relationship, and how funny she was when she was feeling well. The video also contained a few bits: I changed midway through the video because I knew Alyssa would be pissed if I didn’t rock two outfits; I jokingly asked her for her Instagram followers since she won’t need them anymore; I told stories about her teasing me all the time. The point I had to make: For as tragic as a day as it was, we have to learn to celebrate the joy amongst the pain.

In the same way that the hardest part about joy is that it has to come to an end is that the same is true for our lives. To hope for immortality is to not recognize the preciousness of every day; to assume our lives are meaningless is to do the same. Our lives are inevitably going to be pockmarked by tragedy, but tragedy can’t exist without joy. On the hardest days of my life, I had friends and family there to provide support. There is no joy quite like a joy felt when in solidarity with someone you love reminiscing about the beautiful life someone you both loved lived. The pain present is unspeakable, but the presence of that pain is what allows—nay, causes—the immaculate joy we feel in that moment.

Our lives are beautiful not in spite of their expiration date, but because of their expiration date. If we were capable of living forever, months would become days, years would become months, and time in its eternality would cease to exist. We’d either be alone in our foreverness or we would be with one another in our foreverness; in essence, they are the same. Without an end, there would be no impulse to recognize an impending end. We’d have no reason to appreciate that this may not exist eventually. We must recognize the end of our lives will come. Once recognizing that, the end is only another part of the journey. The journey is what allows us the feeling of joy.

The hardest part of joy is that it comes to an end, but without an end, joy would not exist. For there cannot exist the peak of a mountain without the base, there cannot exist profound joy without something to remind us that it must come to an end.

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