I just learned a few moments ago that the girlfriend of my husband’s friend passed away in her sleep last night. She was 29 years old.
I didn’t know her very well, having only met her on a few occasions when we were invited over for a party or vice versa, when they came to our house with a large group of people.
Looking back, she never appeared ill. I had learned that she had had a heart transplant when she was ten years old, but her vivacity and quirky nature hid any trace of malady or poor health during the times we were together. In fact, she seemed the complete opposite – energetic, alive, and eager.
I sit here now, in shock, finding it hard to believe that someone so young, so healthy, could be taken from the world in a flash. Her 30th birthday would have been this Monday. I’m feeling a mixture of different emotions, actually. Regret for not getting to know her better, despite many opportunities to do so. Grief and empathy for Andrew, her long-term boyfriend. Anger over the injustice of death – why her?
The most prominent emotion I’m feeling, though, is fear. Raw, unbridled, fear.
Fear of death. Fear of loss. Fear of not finishing what I’ve started. Fear that it could all end tomorrow. What would I leave behind?
I’m 28 years old. I am not famous. I do not have a legacy, a reputation. I’ve got a few fingernails dug into the rocky viscera of the literary world, nothing more. Where is my lasting impact? Who will remember me if it all ended today?
And then, as I write this, I realize how silly I am being.
I have family who LOVES me. I have friends who CARE about me. I have an impact on the lives of dozens and dozens of people purely by being here for them. Through my job alone, I impact and help hundreds of people per year, even if it’s indirectly.
It doesn’t matter what I have or have not accomplished. A Pulitzer doesn’t justify my existence. A Hugo Award doesn’t make me a better person or etch my memory deeper into the minds of the people I care about. Those titles, those trophies – they do not make me a good person, a person worthy of being remembered.
It’s my day-to-day actions that build my legacy. The love I put out and the love I receive. It’s taking the time to remind people how much they mean to me. Being involved in things greater than myself. Charities. Good will. Positive energy.
The young woman who passed away last night did ALL of those things. She was a beautiful person, inside and out. Despite my limited interactions with her, I know – in the depths of my soul – that she was a genuine, kind hearted person. Regardless of any professional accomplishments she made in her life, she had an impact on people and she will live on through their memories.
There is no regret in death – only the celebration of life.
Whether my life ends today, tomorrow, or fifty years from now, I hope I leave a legacy – a legacy of love. If it is a shadow of the love that she appears to have spread in the world, I will have lived a successful and fulfilled life.
Life is fragile, my friends. Cradle it, celebrate it, worship it, and LIVE IT.
~ Victoria Elizabeth Ann