On Sunday night I had a hard time going to sleep, and this week it wasn’t because of Walking Dead. Instead, I couldn’t stop thinking about a stranger, a person I’ve never met and yet someone I found myself praying for.
I got the notification on my phone, a news alert that simply read: “Brittany Maynard dies” and without ever knowing her or her family, my heart was heavy. I, like so many others, knew it was coming. After all, her video on her terminal cancer diagnosis and her decision to end her life on her own terms had gone viral just several weeks ago, but it still stopped me. I found myself saying, “Oh no” out loud, as if I believed some kind of miracle was bound to happen for her. I was disappointed, I was sad, I mean, it’s always sad when someone passes, sometimes more so when it happens to someone so young. At just 29 years old, if you had passed her on the street she’d be any young girl with a whole life of experiences ahead of her. And in strolled cancer, perhaps the most ugly word I know right now.
But I’m not writing to debate her choice, there’s enough of that right now and on something so personal I don’t think any one of us can change each other’s minds. I’m writing because on Sunday night when I saw the news alert, my best friend and I were texting back and forth about it and she had simply said, “I just have a thousand ‘What ifs’.”
I’m sure Brittany went over a million what ifs. I’m sure she thought about a lot of things. I could never imagine what I would actually think about if I were in her situation. I could say to you now, as a healthy woman, what I would do, but perhaps my stance would change if all that was ahead of me were pain and deterioration. So what if? What if what?
We can’t live off of “what if” and I’m sure we don’t want to die saying it either. We just need to exist and carry on, never doubting our hearts’ intentions. When I look at all of the things Brittany did in front of her last days, it made me think of the things I’d want to do before my time was up and it made me realize that it shouldn’t take someone’s death to make me appreciate life.
Remember that song, “Live Like You Were Dying”? Why is it we always forget how little time we all have until something like this happens? Why do we let the days go by without making the most of all of them? Let’s not wait until we have to say goodbye, let’s live today and let those we love know that we do. Live! Joke! Laugh! Love! Accomplish. Overcome. Be afraid. Be brave. Dance. Sing. Draw. Create. Find what makes you happy and be a part of it. No regrets. And let’s not think that to really live and be successful means to be rich or famous or the best. Relish in the little victories and appreciate the mundane. To find the beauty and hope in your everyday is a peace I am searching for. I think I’m nearly there. I don’t want another year to go by where I haven’t appreciated where I am and who I’m with. I’ve spent far too many years dreaming of bigger and better and while I know there is nothing wrong with looking ahead, I know how easy it is to become so distracted you don’t see what is right in front of you. It’s kind of like when you spend a long time hating how you look and years later you catch a picture of yourself and think, “Ah I looked so good! What was I complaining about?”
What if we stop wondering about all of the things that Brittany could have done and instead take a look at all she had done. She sparked debate, compassion and thought. She may very well have brought change with her story and that’s something that not very many 29 year olds can say. What if we stop grieving for the things that weren’t and start celebrating what is?
It’s so easy to write all of these thoughts down but the challenge is not believing in them, but practicing them. I think we live in a world that constantly has its finger on the next page. We’re reading too fast and not really enveloping ourselves in our own stories. We only get the one, so slow down.