Yale Student’s Final Essay Goes Viral After Fatal Car Accident

Marina Keegan's ode to college life became her last column ever after she was killed in a tragic car accident days after graduation.

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In her final essay to her classmates, 22-year-old Yale student Marina Keegan penned an ode to life at the university she was preparing to leave. At the time, no one knew it would be her final essay altogether.

On May 26, just days after graduating, Keegan and her boyfriend Michael Gocksch were driving on Cape Cod, Mass., when Gocksch lost control of the car; it went off the road and rolled at least twice. Gocksch was taken to the hospital and later released. Keegan was declared dead at the scene.

The promising young English major had been the president of the Yale Young Democrats and an active part of her college’s branch of the Occupy Wall Street movement. A promising writer, she had already penned articles for NPR and The New York Times and blogged for The New Yorker, where she was set to start work as an assistant to the general counsel in June. “She was so excited she was going to start work there — that’s all she talked about,” her mother Tracy Keegan told the New York Daily News.

But the most affecting part of Keegan’s legacy is the essay she wrote for a special edition of the Yale Daily News that was distributed at the college’s commencement ceremony.

Titled “The Opposite of Loneliness,” — which the Yale Daily News  published online following Keegan’s death — it’s a buoyant, earnest and hopeful rumination on life during and beyond college. “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale,” Keegan wrote. “How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that. We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.”

Exuberant and inspiring, Keegan’s piece is about living life to the fullest. It’s also deeply saddening in light of her death and the lines which resonate the most are the ones that likely weren’t intended to carry much meaning.

“We’re so young. We’re so young,” she wrote. “We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.”

Megan Gibson is a Writer-Reporter at the London bureau of TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeganJGibson. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.