So there’s this actress I’ve worked with. Spirited. Passionate. Full of life. All of 16 now.
A year and a bit ago she was off in Toronto for a fan convention with her mom and boyfriend, having the time of her life. On the way home to Ottawa, memories of the convention are high and the big plans to come are the final Harry Potter movie a week from being released. Until a driver jumps the yellow line, driving into oncoming traffic. The car in front of them manages to get out of the way. They weren’t so lucky.
Don’t Worry, It’s A Happy Ending
The actress’s mom (who escaped serious physical injury) was told at the hospital not to get her hopes up because her daughter very likely wouldn’t survive the night. She was told the same thing the next night, and the next for going on a week. The actress did survive those first nights, plus several more months of excruciating pain in the ICU, plus several more months in the general ward of CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) until she was eventually released.
Six months of her life gone in an instant. It took to the tune of three dozen operations to put her broken body back together and she fought hard to make it through every single day. Especially early on. Her scars, signs of a battle we all hope never to face, will be with her forever.
After a lengthy fight for her very life, this sixteen year old girl – one of the toughest people I can think of – is back to doing what she loves. Back at school, back to acting, doing more travelling to conventions this year. (I’ve kept the details vague and nameless, but she’s bound to recognize her story if she’s reading it so give me a sentence to add: You’re an inspiration and I hope you never forget how awesome you are.)
That same summer, somebody I barely knew, the drummer in my dad’s band, was killed when, of all things – and you probably heard this story on the news – a bear flew through the windshield of the car he was in. Another car hit the bear and sent it aloft where it went clear through the car, killing the two passengers.
That same year a business associate of mine lost both her elderly parents. Her mother to illness, her father to the kind of heartbreak you only hear about from having lived and loved the same woman for many decades. This I add to show that sometimes things do work out. Sometimes they do last. You just never know.
We’re All Bubbles Being Blown By a Baby
Life’s a big experiment. Anything can and does happen and, as the cliché goes, nothing is ever guaranteed. Even in less extreme circumstances than my stories above, life is ever changing and ever throwing curveballs. Relationships start. Relationships end. Jobs come. Jobs go. People come into your life. People leave your life.
So what can you do about it? Enjoy it. Both the highs and lows. Knowing that it’s ever changing and that the wheel is always, always turning.
I use these stories and countless others guide my day-to-day decisions. I try to encourage and embrace all the joy and beauty in every day I have. And I do everything I can to encourage that joy in others and do good for them. The things I have in my life, the people I have in my life, they may not be around tomorrow. Even knowing it may end, and knowing it may end badly — in fact, entirely because it may end — I’ll live and love the hell out of it while it’s here. Fully and completely. Holding nothing back.
Could be that in two months, somebody will be mopping me up off a mall floor after an unfortunate air conditioner incident. But it’ll be the best two months it can be in the mean time.
A final story for you. No personal connection to this one, but it’s just as inspiring as that of the young actress I mentioned.
When The Light Goes Out
On Valentine’s Day, 1884, a young man wrote in his diary that “The light has gone out of my life.” His wife of four years had just died, a day after giving birth to their daughter. The man’s mother, it turns out, had died that same day. The man felt that his “life had been lived out.” Faced with inexorable grief and despair, he thought — at all of twenty-six — that his best days were behind him.
Well, fast forward sixteen years and this young man has married again, has had more children, has cleaned up a corrupt police force as Police Commissioner of New York, has led a cavalry brigade in the Spanish American War, became governor of New York, and has just been sworn in as President of the United States of America. In office, Theodore Roosevelt would oversee the construction of the Panama Canal, help establish the National Parks system, and would go down as one the greatest presidents in history.
He won the Nobel peace prize and they put his face on a frikkin’ mountain.
Life is never over until you stop living. How are you choosing to live yours?
What are the moments or stories that help define your life? Join the discussion in the comments below.