Laugh with every breath. Love as long as you live.
A Good Girl
Alyssa was my best friend. She was a talented musician, a graceful gymnast, a brilliant writer, and a deeply passionate individual. She cared so much about people. Love bled from every facet of her being. When she spoke, her eyes were as sincere as her words. And she always wanted to understand what was wrong so she could strive to make it better.
But Alyssa woke up one day during her senior year in college with a strange pain in her chest. The on-campus doctors didn’t understand why, so they referred her to a specialist. After several MRIs and blood tests, they determined that she had a rare, escalated case of Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a form of cancer. She spent the next three years suffering through varying degrees of pain and sickness as multiple doctors treated her with radiation and chemotherapy. And although these doctors were initially hopeful, Alyssa’s condition worsened, and she eventually passed away on her 25th birthday.
A Bad Guy
Ethan was also my friend. Though not as multi-talented as Alyssa, he was insanely smart – particularly when it came to money and business tactics. But he didn’t care about people. I eventually learned, just before ending our eight year friendship, that he ripped people off for a living. He primarily targeted elderly folks who had a relatively small life savings. “They’re all suckers,” he told me. And he felt no remorse because, he continued, “they’ll be dead soon anyway.”
Today, at the age of 28, Ethan is a multi-millionaire. And although we haven’t spoken in years, I’ve heard from others that he still hasn’t gotten into any legal trouble – largely, I think, because of the calculated threats that I’ve heard he makes to anyone he suspects might have a good conscience. I hear, also, that he doesn’t suffer from any major health problems, and that he, his trophy wife, and his two healthy sons live in a mansion somewhere in Southern California.
These are old stories – familiar stories. The people and the circumstances differ slightly for everyone who tells them, but the core lessons remain the same. Life isn’t fair. Bad things do happen to good people. And good things do happen to bad people.
Yet, these are the excuses many of us use when we choose not to follow our hearts. And they are the excuses many of us use when we choose to treat ourselves and each other without dignity and respect. “Why care?” we argue, “When the Alyssa’s of the world suffer and die young while the Ethan’s of the world sip wine at a five-star resort well into their 80’s.”
But for some of us, Alyssa and Ethan are the reason we do follow our hearts. His story is the reason we live to make the world a little brighter, to make people a little happier. And her story is the reason we use all of the strength we have right now. Because we know we may not have the same strength tomorrow.
Because a world with no guarantees requires us to live every day…