The Death of My Student And the Purpose of Life

In my writing courses, a shining talent emerged, Alexander Zakernichny from Odessa, Ukraine. But his true brilliance flourished in the unlikeliest of places, amidst war. His soldier stories on Facebook were a blend of funny, touching, and mind-boggling. It was clear that a gifted writer was emerging before our eyes.

I believed that when the war ended, Alexander would return home and write amazing books. But on August 4, 2023, he was caught in artillery fire and tragically lost his life.

Alexander’s death was such a tragedy for me, not just because of the loss of life, but also because he couldn’t fulfill his potential. That was my first thought.

But as I thought more, I realized this was the wrong way to see it. We shouldn’t just think of Alexander as unlucky. We shouldn’t disregard his whole life because he died too soon.

It depends on how we tell the story to ourselves.

One option was to think that Alexander’s life mission was to be an author. In this story, he didn’t get to fulfill his plan and was a victim.

The other option was to see Alexander as a warrior who also had a gift for words. In this story, he wasn’t a victim. He fulfilled his mission by protecting his land from invaders. His Facebook posts were a bonus, a gift to us, the readers.

We all tell stories about ourselves and others. Focusing on one thing is easy, especially if it’s emotional. But we need to be careful and ask ourselves: “Can we tell these stories in a different way? Is there another meaning of events?”

That’s how we find the meaning of life itself.

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