This week, Jason, Lucy and I attended the wake of a friend of ours who lived just 13 years. Just by hearing that you may say, “How tragic,” but I would say back to you that actually, Jesse lived morein his 13 years than most people live in 85. Being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was three, he approached his childhood with an attitude of appreciation for life and persistence that he could (and would) be able to do all of the same things a kid without the disease could do.
Our lives crossed paths at the start of his elementary years and by this point he had acquired quite the resume of advocacy, raising both money and awareness for Juvenile Diabetes. His work advocating for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) led him to Washington, D.C. to speak before Congress and he was even honored by Wisconsin Governor Doyle during a State of the State Address. He inspired a snowboarding camp for other kids with Type 1 diabetes – being a real life example that kids with diabetes can do anything that anyone else can do, they just have to manage it a little better.
Jesse touched countless people with his vibrant personality and his ability to connect with anyone. Jesse was an awesome kid and he lived his 13 years to the fullest.
In reflecting on his passing this week, I am faced with the question:
If I only had 13 years of my life left, would I live it as richly as Jesse did? Would my life leave the kind of mark his did?
It’s almost easier to think about what you would do with the cliche “6 months left to live.” Simple. You’d drop everything and be with those you love. You’d take that trip to the Great Wall of China. You’d jump out of the plane or go rafting in the Grand Canyon. You’d have the permission you need to truly say what you want to say.
It’s so cliche to say we should live as if each day is our last. But is this really possible without the bad news from the doctor? There are just too many things you HAVE to do that you certainly would NOT do, if indeed this was your last day here. It’s not a realistic challenge.
But what about 13 years?
With 13 years left, you still have to be financially responsible and maintain the day-to-day of your life (bills, work, relationships, civic responsibilities, chores, etc.), like you do right now.
But what WOULD you change?
Would you look for a different way to spend your 9-5 or 5-9? Would you watch less TV? Would you be more generous with your talents? Would you say “I love you” more or “I’m sorry.” Would you make more memories? Would you write that book? Maybe you’d actually make some progress on the ‘ol Bucket List, instead of waiting until the timing is “right.”
Jesse’s brief but abundantly rich journey here inspires me to live like I’ve only been given 13 more years. It’s time I became more bold about the things that I’m most passionate about. So I start here with giving you (and myself) this challenge: get off your couch and do something to make a memory with someone you love TODAY.
The following quote in his obituary really sums it all up nicely…
“It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”
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