What I learned from losing my friend Noah

Noah Macmillan
Photo from an article by Eric Bond

I just found out that one of my college classmates, Noah Macmillan, passed away last year on July 31st.

He was one of the most talented artists I knew. He was the reason I went to an (amazing) summer illustration camp and started my illustration journey. He was everyone’s friend, always willing to share his knowledge. I felt a very “sibling” like attachment to him.

I met him when I was in high school. We both went to a summer art camp at Washington University in St. Louis, and both continued on to go to college there. We were in several classes together. After graduating, I kept in touch with him every once in a while.

After graduating I felt a little lost in terms of how to approach a career in art, but I saw him doing amazing things, and I asked him how he got started. He told me about an illustration camp in Kansas City that was transformational for him. I went the next year. (It turned out to be one of the best months of my life.)

I just learned that he passed away last year from colon cancer at the age of 33.

He was drawing on his iPad and making jokes the day he died.

He also, amazingly(!) designed a USPS stamp before he died, which was released this February.

I think he knew that I admired him a lot. I wish that I could have written him a card before he passed away, to tell him exactly how much I appreciated how kind and generous he always was and thought his art rocked.


When I almost died five years ago, I was able to hear people tell me how they felt about me, often in a card. It is one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given.

This is not a popular topic of conversation, but I feel like it’s important to say (and something I will never be able to forget): we are all going to die, and we never know the day.

This sobering realization is actually a blessing. It’s not super helpful to dwell on for a really long time, but it does inspire us to seize the day. Because we know this fact, it can help us appreciate every single person we meet and get to do life with, while we are here.

Write to people while they are still alive. It’s a gift. It lifts people up and affirms the things they are doing brilliantly, so they continue to have the energy to keep going.

I’ll be buying a bunch of the stamp that he designed. And I think I might design a card in his honor. (I looked through my box of cards today and couldn’t find one that I feel is right to send to his parents and fiance. This is how cards are first inspired. By real-life events that I don’t yet have a card to acknowledge with.)

Life is beautiful. Life is brutal.

All we can really do is soak up the time we have with each other here.

I hope you write a card this week to someone who has made an impact on you who might not know it yet. A conversation that might be difficult to have in person can be carried in a card. And a card can be kept for a long long time, to sit on a desk and encourage them to just keep being their beautiful self.

Thank YOU for being your beautiful self too. If no one has told you recently, you matter, and people are definitely going to miss you when you’re gone.

So much love,

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