Quote of the Week 34 – Living is short, learning is forever

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This week has been pretty horrible. I’d gone into it hopeful – I’d had a lovely weekend where I’d managed to catch up with two old friends and their daughter for a couple of hours, then in a madly planned Saturday off went to Ali McGregor’s Jazz cabaret for kids with my friend and her two awesome sons. Then rushed from there to the Book Festival to take another set of friends two awesome kids to see Nick Sharratt at the Book Festival. There he very kindly signed a book for my friend’s son who was there, a book for another friend’s son birthday and also took time to admire my friend’s daughter’s artwork and took it from her (with her permission) to write a lovely comment at the bottom. It made their day. And it was lovely to watch and be a part of seeing their encouragement and joy from the whole experience.

Then Monday came, and I got a call with another rejection. I was at the ice rink with some friends at the time. I was more gutted than I let on. For the first time, both my Mum and me had a good feeling about the job I’d applied for. I really liked the place – I could picture myself working there with that community. It was going to be close to where several of my friends had relocated to. I would have a car again. I’d have my weekends back. A regular income. No more zero hour contract.

Tuesday came, and I was in charge at work. It was a relentless day and we were unprepared for it because it had been so quiet the day before. I didn’t get lunch until 3 p.m. and I briefly checked my phone to notice my friends posting a prayer request for their 16 week old son who was in England recovering from a risky heart surgery. He had taken a turn for the worst and they were asking for prayer. I was concerned but I was sure that by the next day things would have turned back around again. I was so wrong. Exhausted from 11 hours at work, running to join my Mum at a book festival event I’d gotten her for her birthday, I checked my phone as we got into her car to make our way home.

My friend’s son had died.

Lying in my room next to me right now is a present I had gotten him months ago. I’d intended to give it to them at a party they’d had after his first surgery to give all their friends a chance to meet him. I’d been at work that day, and my Mum had gotten caught up in some stuff and came home later than expected to hand me over the car so I could make it over to their house before their party had ended. I was annoyed at the time but thought after the festival was over I’d text them to arrange a time to meet another time to catch up and meet their baby boy.

I obviously won’t get the chance to do that now.

At least not on this earth.

I went to work with tears running down my face the next morning. I was sad for my friends unimaginable loss. I was remembering other friends who’ve had to bury their children. And I was angry. My friends are amazingly kind and generous people. Why them? Why anyone? Why after everything had gone so well, did that have to change so quickly? And why hadn’t I gotten a job so I wouldn’t have been working that weekend (and so many others) and a car so I stopped missing out on seeing the friends I love and am drifting apart from more and more. Why hadn’t I just taken the day off? What did it matter that I didn’t get paid wages that day? I would have seen my friends and met their son while he was on this earth.

So I’m going to add to Gandhi’s comments. Don’t just live as if you might die tomorrow, live as if the people you love could die tomorrow.

And learn as if you’ll live forever. The more you learn, the less ignorant you’ll be, the wiser you’ll become and hopefully you’ll have more to give to this world.

It may even be that what you learn may prevent some lives from ending before they really got started.

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Quote of The Week 1: How life is like a storytale…

Seneca

By Hogmanay, I had heard of several people who had died young or unexpectedly during the Christmas/New Year period. This Christmas Eve, sad that I had not managed to take part in many of the traditions that I have long held fondly, I spent some time remembering Eva Markvoort. Eva was a woman who was born the same week and year as me and had Cystic Fibrosis. She was arty, creative, kind, outgoing, dramatic and had a strong sense of social justice. She inspired people all around the world, including me, with her blog, YouTube videos and her efforts to raise money and awareness for CF and organ donation. Eva loved Christmas, and one of the things she did every year was rope friends and family into a ‘Sing for CF’ where they would sing Christmas Carols to raise money for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. On her final Christmas when she was suffering with chronic rejection of her donated lungs, she was unable to go out to do it, so everyone gathered in Eva’s living room turned bedroom and did a live webstream singing Christmas songs the week leading up to Christmas. And I sat on my laptop singing along with them in my bedroom in Scotland (despite the time difference!)

I feel like as each year of my life comes to an end (i’ve had over 30 of them now), I am reminded by seemingly senseless tragedies that we just never know what is around the corner. It reminds me of the conversation between a mother and her dying son being recounted in Fly A Little HigherZach was struggling to see the point of school as teachers were asking them to write essays for college and friends were full of talk about plans after high school – all things that he was likely never going to be participating in. Laura prayed to God to give her the words to respond to her son’s struggle.

“How many kids are in your class?” [Laura] asked.

“I don’t know, maybe around seven hundred,” he replied.

“Zach, the likelihood of one of them dying within the next few years is pretty good… There is a kid in your class who is going to die soon but just doesn’t know it. You know you’re going to die, and you have a pretty good idea of when. You have the advantage of preparing your soul. You get it. That other kid – he thinks he’s just preparing for college. So what’s really going on here isn’t that your friends are moving on and leaving you behind; it’s the opposite. You’ve moved on and have left them behind.”

-Fly A Little Higher by Laura Sobiech (page 3)

Of course, the reason we know the names of Zach Sobiech, Eva Markvoort, Emily Thackray, Stephen Sutton and many others is because though their lives may have been short in terms of calendar years, they were high in quantity of achievement. They have left us behind, and for those of us left behind (especially for those close to them) the loss is painful and the grief is hard to bear. But they lived life to the full – even when it wasn’t easy. There’s a message that Zach shared to the world…. “I want people to know that you don’t have to find out you are dying to start living“.

Truth is, we are all dying. Being born and dying are the two things of the human experience every single one of us shares. We don’t know when it’s going to happen, but it will happen one day. We can sit and wait…or we can make choices to make the best out of the time, resources and abilities we are given.

We might have a long tale to tell. It might be unexpectedly short.

But the point is – it’s not the length, but how good it is, that matters.