How The Death Of A Friend Motivated Me To Live My Best Life

by Samantha Basek
A woman with glasses who was motivated to live her best life after the death of a friend
Samantha Basek

In March of 2017, the world lost a beautiful, fun, caring and vivacious woman unexpectedly. She was my friend and my neighbor. While it’s been a solid year of absolute shock for all of us, it’s also been a year of growth for many that she touched. Bianca was not your average girl. She lit up a room and found ease in talking to anyone. Her energy was positive and boundless — one of the main reasons that coming to grips with her death is so difficult.

I’ve learned so much in this past year. I see things differently, not completely but in meaningful ways. I’ve taken the death of my friend who had so much more life to live and have become better because of it. How?

Our health is much more important to me.

Bianca had a heart condition. It wasn’t something she talked about a lot, but it was the thing that most likely took her last breath. As her friend, I knew it was something she lived with. As her neighbor, I saw it in action as ambulances whisked her away from time to time. Could her death have been prevented? Possibly.

Visiting the doctor on the regular is a necessity in my home these days. Not just our general doctors. We get things checked out that we may have let slide before. Weird feelings, skin cancer screenings, oddities that most kids get — it all turns into a doctor’s visit.

We also make a conscious effort to stick to healthier foods. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ll always be the first to go through my kid’s Halloween candy stash and enjoy a piece of cake from time to time (see below). But, in general, this family eats healthy. When I don’t want to cook sometimes we give in and order out, but sometimes I think that an extra healthy meal will keep us all together longer and grill up the chicken that is less than exciting.

Fitness is a top priority.

My husband and I would rather do anything than workout. Honestly, ANYTHING would be better that running, going to the gym, doing that Tae-Bo video. (Do people still do these? Because my husband does.) However, making sure we put an urgency on fitness is a biggie. I want to be there when my kids are older. I want to know my grandkids. I want to spoil them and take them on vacations. I want to tell them about how their grandfather and I met and worked hard to maintain a healthy marriage, and I want them to have both sides of the story. So, for me, exercise and cardiovascular fitness is necessary to reach those goals. We don’t workout to be skinny; we workout to live longer.

Making new friends is on my to-do list.

Before Bianca died, I would say things like, “I don’t have time for anymore friends.” Ugh, that just sounds horrible. This woman whose life ended far too soon had a million friends. She was genuinely loved and had no difficulty meeting and connecting with new people. She joined local mom’s groups, networked as she sold LuLaRoe, and was even a pen pal to many internationally. Every one of our neighbors enjoyed her company, and I can tell you that our annual holiday cookie exchange will not be the same without her.

I’ve definitely put myself out there more these days. It can be uncomfortable and scary trying to make friends as an adult. Where do we even meet people?? I’ve made an effort to widen my circle and to appreciate people who are far different from myself. Sometimes it’s a homerun, sometimes I end up empty handed… but isn’t that what life should be all about? Let’s take more chances so life is richer in the end.

I’m gonna eat the damn cake!

This does conflict with my eating healthy point, but, in moderation, you’ve just gotta go for it! You’ve gotta eat the damn cake! You’ve gotta enjoy the Christmas cookies. You’ve gotta have a glass of wine. I want to have a big bowl of pasta in Italy, and a plate of cheese in France one day. And, I’m going to do this with zero guilt. Live this life! Eat the stuff that isn’t great for you in moderation. Keep the rest of your days mindful and healthy, but don’t miss out on some damn good food because you feel like you have to keep it 100%. Enjoy this life now. Go for it!

Give everything your all… not just work.

Bianca sold LuLaRoe, and while that girl worked hard she also was fortunate enough to give her family a lot of herself. Have you heard the line “work to live rather than live to work”? Yes, that’s what this life is all about. There’s always work, and laundry, and grocery shopping, and this, and that. I know, I know, the pressures of getting 17 hours of a to-do list done in only 5. I know that there’s a pile of laundry that needs to be put away, there’s a house to clean, there’s another email notification on your phone from a client asking for something to be done last minute. This is my life too. But I know there are two little kids wishing I could drop it all and play outside and a husband that wants to connect a little bit more.

Since the death of my friend, I give my family much more of me. Sometimes it’s a struggle. But we’ve started to schedule in time together. Our routine new routine includes spending thirty minutes each night playing with our kids. Of course, we spend much more time with them than that, but a focused amount of time per evening between dinner and baths without phones or distractions gives us the quality time we feel like we are missing out on regularly.

My husband and I also go on dates often. We are lucky enough to have a family member living with us, allowing us to put our kids to bed and go out for dessert, a drink, a movie, anything that doesn’t require a children’s menu. However, even without the built-in babysitter, we made it a priority to take a night out for ourselves at least once a month. It’s important to look at each other without managing kids at a restaurant. This one-on-one time is essential to us to reconnect and talk about what we have going on in more detail rather than a passing conversation that is inevitably cut short by a child interrupting.

The sadness I feel from losing my friend will be there forever, but I feel fortunate to take something away from this tough situation. I’m happy I’ve made those minor changes that will make my life better. I’m happy I can be better to and for those around me. Live life, my friends. Don’t wait for your Bianca to suddenly pass away for things to click. Now go exercise and then eat a piece of that damn cake.

This article is dedicated to a woman who’s vibrance is still felt more than a year after her death. Missing you bunches, Bianca!