“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“This joke only cost me $200,000 to write!”

The audience laughed, but I was baffled. I couldn’t understand why my brother, who had recently become a stand-up comedian, would be so willing to tell jokes about being a medical school drop-out to a room full of strangers. 

Comedy was my brother’s way of connecting with people. Laughter let him know that he was heard and that others, too, could relate. But this couldn’t ease his deeper pain I knew he grappled with every day, and he eventually took his own life.

Two years of mourning, confusion, and hope later – I was about to share my brother’s story with my HBS section, whom I’d known for only a month. His story was so precious to me, and I was terrified that it wouldn’t be treated with the same care by others. But I knew he would’ve wanted me to share his story, especially with this group of people that would become such a big part of my life. Strikingly, his story was received by my section mates with sympathy and bravely shared stories of their own. 

Everyone has a story to tell. While the uniqueness and vulnerability in these stories can make us feel isolated, it’s only when we share them that we form connections that transform and heal. The love I was shown that day from my section mates made me see that regardless of our backgrounds, we all had the capacity and desire to understand each other at a deeper level. 

I consider this opportunity to connect through stories as my brother’s gift to me. I will live to tell and listen. 

— Alison Shin