(Sara Azoulay/The Observer)

I faintly recall a day on the train when there was a big commotion in my subway car, three performances being held right before me. There was a man playing the guitar, singing a silly little love song. He was to my right and he had a sweet smile, earnestly holding out his hat for a dollar or two, or at the very least a quarter.

To my left, a group of young boys danced and flipped to a boom box. The two shows—the love song performer and rambunctious dancing boys—didn’t coincide and they didn’t want to interrupt the other. You see, they both had a job to do, money to earn with their odd talents.

Then there was a man. An old man in a psychotic state and a thick beard. He was shouting at a few individuals on the train. Obscene, offensive, repulsive things. He was in the middle of the two performances. He didn’t hold out his hand to anyone for money. He didn’t want your money, he wanted your time, he wanted you to listen, he wanted to be seen, to be heard, to be known, to be in existence…

He shouted, “We’re all going to die one day. We’re all going to die one day.” His performance was the most believable out of the three.

As I stood there in the middle of the chaos, I started to laugh. This was a sight to see, this was unique and here I was in the middle of it all. Getting to witness all of them. This was a laugh of awe. This was a laugh of gratitude.

When I heard the news, when I heard that a young girl I once knew and once laughed with was hit by a car, when I heard that her life was over, just like that…

Well, I flashed back to the old crazy man on the subway car. I flashed back to that day on the train and I whispered with him this time, “We’re all going to die. We’re all going to die.”

And then, I sang with the lonely love song performer. I danced with the young boys. I rode that subway car all over New York. I rode that subway car to my dreams and never looked back.

I cried and cried because well,

We’re all going to die,

So it’s important that we all live.

Note: In loving memory of Erica Halpern, Mandana Shojaeifard and all the young people who’ve left before their dreams could be fulfilled.