I did not know him well.

There are friends I have on Facebook who, despite having never met them, I feel as though I do know well. In this instance, the man who I will not name I only had moderate interaction with. I will not name him because I didn’t know him well enough to presume that he would approve of me writing this, although many of my friends will know of whom I speak.

Recently, he died doing something he loved.

His last post on Facebook expressed his excitement at having half a day off so he could go kite surfing, accompanied by a photo of his gear and the ocean in the distance. He wrote, “wind is cracking.”

Most unfortunately, the sport he loved cost him his life that day.

This is a terrible tragedy, and although I did not have close ties to the man I cannot help but be deeply saddened for a life cut short and for the family he leaves behind. The outpouring of grief from mutual friends on Facebook fills my newsfeed and I am moved and saddened. Although I did not know him well, it is obvious that this man touched many. He was part of that fitness community that, while it often can be contentious among itself, has also created close bonds of friendship and even love.

Although I did not know him well, I will miss him.

“He died doing what he loved” seem like empty words at a time like this, but they are more poignant than some are willing to admit. Every time you get out of bed in the morning there is risk involved.

Sometimes I wonder, when I post a photo of a double-black diamond run at Lake Louise on Facebook, if it will be my last. When I write things like, “Screw work. It’s beautiful outside. I’m going for a bike ride.” Is it possible that will be my final post?

Yes, it is possible. One of the reasons I embrace physical activity is for the benefits to longevity, despite the associated risks. Granted, I could stay at home and run on a treadmill and it would be safer, but it would not be living the way I want to live. It is not just for the physiological benefits that I engage in sport, but for the psychological boost as well.

I enjoy engaging in sports that involve risk, because velocity is fun. Skiing and cycling and kayaking and body surfing and cliff diving and running along rural roads with no shoulder are all things I like to do. I know there are risks and I endeavor to manage them as best I can. I cannot speak to the situation that led to this man’s death, but I do know he was an intelligent and educated person. I can only expect that he was aware of and managed the risks as best he could.

But accidents happen. It does not lessen the tragedy understanding that it can just be a fluke. There are fluke accidents in bathtubs and oceans alike.

People die young all the time because they stayed inside. They didn’t care for their bodies and it contributed to an early death. I believe that, when someone cannot regularly peel themselves away from the couch, that they are not just dying physically, but spiritually. I have endless fond memories of days spent outside doing something I love, but the memories of watching TV leave no lasting mark on my being, no matter how amusing Homer Simpson’s antics may be.

I don’t want to die any time soon. I cannot imagine that this young man did either. I expect that he loved living his life to the fullest, which was precisely why he was outside engaging in that activity that unfortunately cost him his.

It is small solace to say at a time such as this, but living is worth dying for.

­–James Fell