Those of you who follow this blog know that I get a little fidgety just before medical appointments. So with a semiannual CT scan the day after Christmas and a checkup with my oncologist scheduled for a couple of weeks later, I was feeling a little sorry for myself.
And then, smack in the middle of those two appointments, I heard that a friend had been rushed to the hospital. And my worries shifted back into perspective. Although I hadn’t seen him in a while, Lee was one of those people who had a way of making everyone who knew him feel included and special and loved. A talented singer and actor, a natural comedian and a gentle soul, he was lit from within. Lee died January 5, but he is still inspiring people, among them more than 1,200 people who continue to tell Lee stories on a Praying for Lee Facebook page.
Unlike Lee, I did see my friend Gina just days before her sudden death almost two years ago. It was a sparkling sunny day, and she was smiling her sparkling sunny smile. I will cherish that moment for the rest of my life. Her last words to me, “Shake, shake, shake,” an inside joke between her family and mine, were words of encouragement. Gina was one of the most giving people I have ever known. An avid cyclist, she died in a biking accident. I have never written about her. I’ve tried and stopped. And tried again. I’m not going to write any more about her now. I just don’t have the words.
I also don’t have the words to write about Emma, the extraordinary daughter of friends who died in a car accident at age 16, or the way-too-many other young people in our community who have left this life in recent months and years.
The point is, sometimes it takes a sock in the gut to remind us that none of us know which moment will be our last. When my time comes – whether I dwindle like a fading photograph or go in a blinding flash – I hope I will have lived as Lee and Gina and Emma did.
When you have a moment, take a look at this incredible and inspiring TEDx talk by Laura Rozo, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina who died at age 20 from a rare type of cancer last year.
Laura said: “I tell you my story because I am dying. The bad news is that you are dying, too. The only difference between you and me is that I know what’s killing me. The good news is that you don’t have to be diagnosed with cancer to claim your life…The minute you realize that you will die, you will finally start living. You will take that leap. You will make that jump. You will fly.”
True words to live by.