Love One Another Always

Find Your Way

A friend of mine, Bernardo Peńa, died suddenly and without warning around Labor Day weekend 2012. I hadn’t seen my friend Bernardo in over a year and thus didn’t know what a few friends closer to him only knew in secret: that he had terminal cancer. Bernardo’s death was a complete, utter shock to me, as he was only thirty-four when he passed away.

And Bernardo seemed immortal. At maybe five feet, two inches tall at his peak, Bernardo was a force to be reckoned with! He was loud, completely fashionistic, and completely hilarious. He had a very mischievous, distinct, and bellowing voice that could always be picked out of the crowd. Probably because that crowd would most often be standing around him! He was the life of the party and always full of personality.

I remember Bernardo once sent a bottle of champagne to my friend Doug’s birthday dinner to apologize for his tardiness. Rarely do I use the word classy, because I’m of the mind that the things in this world that most people refer to in life as “classy” are anything but. Bernardo, however, was classy. Really damn classy. A true class act and a rare, rare person to have met and called a friend.

Bernardo’s surprise death left me very upset because I looked at him like he was invincible and because he died so young. His passing was a huge reality check and a massive wake-up call. I began living life differently after he died. “Life is too short” became an everyday saying in my vernacular. I quit driving with such rage and anger. I embraced the friends I had and started being a better friend in those relationships that had waned. I began standing up for myself more and focused on finishing the collection of stories in my book.

The first week of September, just days after Bernardo’s death, Orbitz.com sent me an e-mail advertising travel deals for a November trip from Los Angeles to Munich, Germany. They were offering $747 roundtrip tickets on AirBerlin from Los Angeles to Munich, with a layover in Dusseldorf, Germany. Holy shit, that is CHEAP! I thought.

I got so excited, I almost booked passage there and then. Instead, I put the reservation on hold and started calling my friends and asking for their advice. My good friend Sash said to me, “Don’t go to Munich. Go to Amsterdam. I love Amsterdam and hope to live there some day.”

I told him I would love to see Amsterdam and that I had never been there.

“YOU’VE never been to Amsterdam?” Sash was shocked! “Honey,” he said, very enthusiastically, “RUN! Don’t walk to Amsterdam!”

I had originally wanted to treat myself to a trip for my thirtieth birthday in April—though it didn’t happen due to extreme costs at the time. But Sash’s advice and Bernardo’s death in September proved to be excellent catalysts. With this advice, a new plan with new arrangements and ideas formed. I was to research flights going to Berlin and how much trains would be going to Amsterdam and back. (I knew the featured destination was Germany: I had always wanted to go to Deutschland ever since I was a little boy.)

“Do you wish to confirm this ticket, sir?” the airline rep asked me.

Without thinking more than a few seconds, Bernardo came into my head, and I answered “Yes” in response. Bernardo would want me to go on a trip for my thirtieth birthday, like I had planned for so long. Did I really have the money to go to Europe at that moment? Probably not. But I did have the will and desire to treat myself and just go.

“Life is too short.”

It is. Life is very short. Who knows when I would/will ever get the chance to go to Europe again for so cheap? Before I knew it, November came, and I was headed to Deutschland.

more by KOELEN ANDREWS

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Koelen Andrews

Koelen is a blogger and author of the recently released short story collection anthology: Dancing in My Underwear available now on Amazon, kindle, itunes, goodreads, and nook.

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