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

“Do not resuscitate.”

At 19 years old, I gave the instructions to an unfamiliar doctor in an unfamiliar hospital. I had last seen my father two days prior, when I drove him to the airport to catch a flight to the 2007 Neuroscience Conference in San Diego. And just 72 hours later, this man who dedicated his life to studying the brain—whose brain I admired above any other—lay on life support, unable to engage that brain ever again. He was gone.

Until this point, everything I’d accomplished in my life was done to make my father proud. Now that he was gone, I felt aimless. What was I striving for? My life had once been directional —onward, upward— a series of events that would push me higher up the metaphorical ladder I so desperately wanted to climb.

But my father’s death was sudden and unexpected, a total freak accident. It wasn’t part of the plan. I felt completely lost. But what I’d really lost, I realized, was the chance to view life through my father’s eyes. I lost the chance to hear about his childhood in Kashmir, his perspective on the future of science, his favorite zinger from last night’s Jon Stewart episode.

Yet, though I’d lost the chance to learn from him, I could still honor him. We will lose everything we love in the end—it’s the natural course of life. But for me, that’s okay. Beauty in life is in the discovery. More than ever, I feel inspired to learn from my father: to use my brain to be ever-curious, to seek the truth, and to greet challenge. Life is made for the skeptic’s mind.

— Shara Ticku