Every year on March 12, I always think of my childhood friend, Sharon—it’s her birthday. She always had such a cheerful spirit; a “joie de vivre.” To this day, I am inspired when I remember it. This is one of the stories I wrote about her in my book, Life’s Too Short to Miss the Big Picture for Women. Happy Birthday, Sharon. Thinking of you today!
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” –Mae West
A shaft of light drives through a crack of the carelessly closed drapes of my bedroom window and penetrates the darkness. The glass becomes a prism throwing spears of light across my face. Piercing and full of heat, they shatter my sleep and pull me into the waiting day. The moment I open my eyes and see the colors of the rainbow always feels like a miracle to me. It beckons me to rise and embrace the gift of another day of life. I throw the covers off and blindly stumble after its promise.
Day after day, the miracle arrives. Mostly, I just smile and accept God’s gracious gift of another day. But once in a while, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of this fragile and precious offering. I’ve lived life long enough to know we’re never promised that when we close our eyes at night, we’ll wake up to blue skies and sunshine the next day. Heck, forget the blue skies and sunshine stuff; we’re not even guaranteed that we’ll wake up.
Growing up, one of my best friends was Sharon. As kids, we made mud pies together in the backyard. We spent the night at each other’s houses and managed to get into trouble on a regular basis. Like the time we spied her daddy’s big, wicked-looking, double-edged razor on the bathroom sink counter as we were brushing our teeth one Saturday morning. Second graders, we impulsively decided we didn’t want hairy legs anymore. Surely we were old enough to shave it off. Naturally, since we were at Sharon’s house, she got to go first. She filled up the tub with water and lathered up her leg with Ivory soap. She then proceeded to take off the entire top layer of skin from her foot to her knee with the first swipe. I was mesmerized by how quickly the water in the tub turned red from blood, but her cries broke my stupor, and I grabbed a towel and helped my sobbing friend wrap her leg. I looked up, and she gave me a wobbly smile just before I went flying out the door screaming for help. I just knew my best friend was going to bleed to death!
Even as a child, I understood Sharon’s instinctive ability to grab life by the horns and relish the ride it brought. She lived life in a large way—ready to take on any challenge and always with a big smile on her face. Sure, it got us into trouble sometimes, but it was always fun and almost always worth it.
That’s why it’s hard to imagine her gone.
But life can be like that. One day you’re living large and smiling, and the next day you’re gone.
It was a Monday. Sharon came home from work. She wasn’t feeling well, so she lay down on the bed to rest. When her husband Mike came to check on her a few minutes later, she was not alive. Without warning, her life just stopped. She didn’t even have a chance to call for help or say good-bye. I’d like to imagine she faced death with that wobbly smile I remember so well.
Tomorrow may be full of promises. But Sharon reminds me there are no guarantees. Her death taught me that life’s too short not to live every day like it will be your last one.
When we close our eyes to sleep, we’ve got to know our love is branded on the hearts of those we cherish and that the world is a better place because we bothered to show up.
That’s how I want to live life. I don’t want to retreat from anything. I want to charge what life throws in front of me and not waste time thinking about it.
That’s what Sharon did.
So tonight, I’ll close my bedroom curtains, pulling them almost closed. I’ll lay my head on my pillow and pray. I’ll close my eyes with the expectation of another miracle tomorrow morning. But if it doesn’t come, I’ll be satisfied.
Life Note: The truth of the matter is that not everyone is destined to live a long and productive life full of rich experiences and prolific contributions. But here’s the deal—if we’re alive, we’ve been given an extraordinary gift that’s just too precious to squander. It doesn’t matter if we’re destined to die young or end our years like a spent bloom, withered and dry. What matters is living every day like it’s the last one we’ll ever spend on this blessed earth. When we lie down at night, we must be content with who we are and satisfied with the way we lived life that day. There can be no regrets.
“Because I have lived right, I will see your face. When I wake up, I will see your likeness and be satisfied.” (Ps. 17:15 ncv)