Heaven Akmal died Jan. 14, 2018. I know that you may not recognize her name, but it’s a name that brings warmth to my heart. Akmal and I met about eight years ago. I was 13, and she was only 10.
I was shy when I was younger and just getting started in a theater career. I was afraid of how people would judge me, and I didn’t want to be around anyone for fear of being disliked. Akmal was the first person to always force me to include myself. She was also the first person to grab my hand, pull me into a hug and ask what was bothering me.
I saw Akmal a few weeks ago at a New Year’s Eve party and was overjoyed to see her. Since I’ve been at OCU, it’s been tough to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Akmal didn’t seem to mind the distance, though, and acted as if no time had passed since the last time I saw her. She hugged me, smiled at me and reminded me that her heart was unendingly full of love.
Her death was unexpected. No one could have seen it coming, and, for that reason, everyone who knew her is struggling to come to terms with it. Anyone who knew Akmal would agree that she was a ball of light and sunshine. She was a big part of your life, no matter your relationship with her.
I’m reminded how precious life is. I’m reminded that any moment could be our last, and, for that reason, it is absolutely vital that we express our love and care for those who are important to us.
As students, we spend a lot of time worrying about homework, deadlines, upcoming dates, etc. It’s easy, on a campus like OCU’s, to forget that the world keeps turning outside of our busy lives. We must take a few moments to step back and reflect on what is important to us.
I’ve written about it in the past, but I still encourage us to remember to enjoy the little things. Spring semester is a stressful time. It’s cold, professors who taught us previously have higher expectations of us and we’re already waiting for summer break. We need to take the time to enjoy our weekends or moments shared with friends and family. I cannot stress enough the importance of what it means to let yourself be human and not the workaholic machines that our college schedules turn us into.
This week, I have been sure to contact everyone around me that I care about and remind them that I’m always here to talk if they need anything, and that I love them. I will also spend much of my time reflecting on happy memories that I’ve been lucky enough to share with Akmal, as well as lessons that she’s taught me.
“A heart is not judged by how much you love, but how much you are loved by others.
-L. Frank Baum