boy sitting alone looking out at the sea.

The Sadness of Losing Someone You Never Knew

Yesterday I found out that someone I’d never met had passed away, a whole year ago. It happened in quite a roundabout way. I’d been taking his courses online and I was looking for any events he might have coming up to use as an incentive (I’m a big fan of using rewards to motivate myself to do things) to help me commit to stretching every day. Which, as a stretching trainer you’d think would be easy, but life gets in the way sometimes (a lot of times… OK all the time). 

I suddenly not only did not have an incentive, I had a loss. One which was hard to put into words, because it’s difficult to believe that I had a right to be sad. Relatives, friends, colleagues, students and the random people of life that peopled the grocery stores and bookshops of his experience – they all get to feel sad. But why would I be allowed to?

Have you ever been inspired by someone and looked them up only to find that you had already lost the special person you only just found? It’s a specialised emotion, one only the German language would have one word for. And it would be the perfect word. It would probably mean something like the-poignancy-of-loss-without-loss. The overwhelming feeling I had was – I wish I’d met him, he’s just the sort of person I would have wanted to do something nice for, to be kind to. I feel sad I never got a chance to be kind to him. 

There are some folks who just seem like really good people, who give their experience away generously. The kind of people I want to reciprocate towards and help out, but often lack the financial or social capital to do so in any useful way, because they’re already more successful than me, which is why they were able to help me out in the first place. He’s gone and I have this feeling of wanting to do something for someone left over. 


Actually maybe that’s not sad. Maybe that’s the perfect life. I mean, the perfect legacy. If my memory made people want to pay goodness forward, or make some kind of contribution, I would be so happy. 

I meant to write this yesterday and got caught up in my middle grade fiction story. Today I went for a walk, trying to choose a café with the perfect ambience to write in. I sat down in a lovely little place and within a couple of minutes someone who could have been this man’s identical twin sat down opposite me. I’m sure my shocked stare had nothing to do with him pulling his shades down and then walking off pretty soon after.

Do you believe in messages from the beyond or from the universe? Or do you put it all down to the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon (learning about something and suddenly seeing it everywhere) and coincidence? I believe in signs (as well as coincidence), and while I also believe I shouldn’t make everything all about myself, I give myself full licence to make personal meaning out of any and everything. 

If I could help half as many people as David Farland did through his writing classes, advice and books, I think I would have lived a very good life. I hope he was happy with both his whole story and his final chapter.

Author David Farland dressed as a wizard, holding a child.

Reddit post and Brandon Sanderson’s article.