MacKenna Strange
Malibu, California
Expat Society Georgetown

My brother Johnny was a superhero.

Most of the time he was at our home in Malibu, hanging out in the jacuzzi or on the couch watching movies, constantly with takeout food around him. He was one of the only people in the world who shared my ridiculous sense of humor. He couldn’t go a day without playing a joke on someone. Once, I felt like I was getting sick but still wanted to go to the beach with him and some friends, so I asked him to grab me some DayQuil from the kitchen. When he came back with it, I knew he was up to something because he had on his beaming “I’m about to mess with you” grin. I took it anyway and only found out that it was extra strength NyQuil when I woke up around 10pm. Every time we parted my brother would say to me “don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” which always made me smile because there was nothing—truly nothing—he wouldn’t or couldn’t do.

When he wasn't at home, he was a daredevil. He was a professional mountain climber, skydiver, and BASE jumper. He was a philanthropist and raised awareness for different causes while doing the most extreme and dangerous sports in the world. In Portugal and Hawaii, he tow-in surfed some of the biggest waves. He served on the Olympic committee for the nation of Bhutan. I hate to brag, but my brother is worth bragging about. He was the coolest person I’ll ever know.

He was one of the best and youngest BASE jumpers in the world. But even he couldn’t control a gust of strong wind. He died BASE jumping in Switzerland on October 1, 2015.

My life since then has been a rollercoaster. Loss is confusing and heartbreaking; the strangest experience you can go through. There are days when I look around and just think that there is no one who can understand. There are days when I feel like I have to trust some higher power that maybe for some awful reason this was meant to happen. Then there are the days when I think that if there were any sort of God, this wouldn’t have ever happened. We have the power to do anything. With enough money or resources or whatever, human beings can do whatever we want. The one thing we can’t do is bring back someone we’ve lost. And that’s the only thing in the world that I want.

I hate to act like any good can come from this, but I know it really is making me stronger. I have a different perspective now — on life, family, love, and what really matters. Life is a lot shorter than we all think. Everyday I try to prepare myself to live for another 80 years, while at the same time live every day like it’s the last.