There are two things I know:
- Change is the only constant.
- Complacency is the enemy of a life well lived.
One thing we can guarantee in life is that things will change. For good or for bad, sooner or later, something in your life will change.
But that doesn’t mean you should sit around waiting for that change.
There’s a saying from the Stoics that applies here:
Memento mori. Remember that you will die.
I don’t believe this is morbid, but rather a wake-up call to live while you’re alive.
As poet David Whyte points out in his breathtaking audiobook, What to Remember When Waking, humans are the only animals who are aware of death. We live with the sadness every day knowing we are going to die … and we are going to experience others dying. This is the human condition. Embracing death is embracing life as a human.
In Women in Time and Space, I wrote about our first daughter, Scarlett, dying in her sleep. I also wrote about the impact that had on my life. I always thought that’s the worst experience I could have — nothing like that could ever happen again. Lightning doesn’t strike twice.
But lightning did strike twice.
After our toddler’s cardiac arrest and subsequent heart surgery in early May, the doctors delivered a deadly diagnosis. Cassie has a progressive genetic disease that attacks her organs — particularly the heart. The disease was only identified 5 years ago. There’s not enough data to know what her life expectancy will be.
It turns out, Scarlett had the same condition. That’s what killed her. We didn’t know that until now.
I’m angry, to say the least. Heartbroken. Horrified. Terrified. I’ve experienced the loss of one child, and now another one of my children has the same fatal condition.
I have only one tiny bit of solace in this …
I never got complacent.
I took Cassie as a gift from the moment she was conceived. A gift that could be so easily taken away. A gift I should never take for granted. Through sleepless nights and toddler tantrums, the exhaustion and frustration have always given way to that deep knowing that it is a season. I won’t let the hard stuff be a tar pit — but I won’t rest on my laurels when things are easy, either. Actively, purposefully appreciating the good and breathing through the bad … I don’t do it perfectly, but I give it my all.
If the worst happens, I know from experience that I’ll have my fair share of regrets and what-ifs … but I’ll also know, without a doubt, I did my best. I didn’t phone it in.
I wrote more obituaries in the last 9 years than I expected to in my entire life. While I hope I never have to write another one, the chances of that are slim … because I’m human.
Some of those obituaries were easier to write than others because there were stories to tell about the person’s life. Even when I wrote Scarlett’s obituary, I had stories to tell of her not-quite-two-years on this planet.
I want to give people stories to tell about Cassie.
I want to give people stories to tell about me.
This requires digging deep into the well of my courage and taking part in this scary, sad, human world. It’s not easy.
But who wants to read a story about someone who’s got it easy?