Emily Davis was never a student of mine. I never even met her in all her young years as she changed the lives of so many while battling cancer. Yet, when she passed away five years ago on this day, I found myself mourning her death as if I had known her.
But I did not know Emily, at least in the sense of meeting her in person. I am a member of the community comprising thousands whose lives were touched deeply by such an inspiring, courageous girl, a 15-year-old artist and hero who shared the passion of living and loving so strongly that it reached us, stayed with us, forever changing our lives and making us better individuals toward each other.
Emily’s love and inspiration touched those who knew her well so deeply that, in knowing them, I was touched forever by her strength in working with others, helping them see beauty within themselves.
That love, that courage to make the most of today and to allow others to see it as well, is with me as strongly today as it was five years ago when Emily died.
When I was much younger, still a teen in high school, I took a class called Education for Responsible Parenthood, and in that class I met a wonderful young girl named Meggie Curd, who, at the age of 8, was battling cancer. Now, this was 27 years ago that I met Meggie, and I did not get many chances to spend time with her or even get to know her well as I might a friend I see every day. But the frequency of visits did not matter at all. Meeting Meggie just those few times was all I needed to understand that we all have choices in our life in how we use our precious moments here on Earth. We can spend our time in sadness or grief over our past or our present, or we can embrace the new moments that are yet to come, filled with possibility and with hope, filled with whatever we choose to make of them.
Meggie did two things: She decided to see love in those moments, and she decided to share that love with others, so strongly and powerfully that it stayed with them so that they, too, could share that magic and that love with those they met along the way.
When Meggie died, we all cried and mourned her passing. But when we hugged each other in support and in comfort, we knew that each of us contained a gift from her to carry with us for the rest of our lives. She allowed us to see the beauty in these moments that we experience, and we have the awesome responsibility of sharing that love, that beauty, with all whom we meet.
That responsibility, that love, stays with us forever.
About four years ago, I was at a local restaurant with a good friend when I saw a few members of Emily’s family a few tables away. I wanted to let Emily’s mom know that her daughter, through her friends and her family, had touched me deeply with that love and seeing the beauty in each moment. A few others from the Davis party joined us at our table, and I shared my story of Meggie with her, telling her that Emily’s memory will not fade away; it will stay strongly with us just like Meggie’s memory is still with me and so many others.
One of the Ms. Davis’ friends who joined us at the table had been Emily’s nurse. She looked at me and smiled. “Meggie Curd?” she asked. I looked at her, a little incredulously and nodded. “Meggie was my patient. She touched people like that. She’s still making a difference.”
I got over the initial surprise that Emily’s nurse had also known Meggie as well. And today, I take great strength in the way our lives cross in such important ways. It reminds me that the ripple of love, of courage, of hope never ends as we carry with us the people in our lives who have passed on.
There is great sadness in the passing of a friend, a loved one, especially so young. But their lives, and the way they lived them, serve as reminders to us all how there is much to savor in a single moment. Each passing second contains an opportunity to make a difference, to reach out and remind each other that we do have a choice. In Emily’s memory, and in the memories of so many others that have passed on so early in their lives, I choose to see that love and pass it along.
I encourage you to read more about Emily’s story on her website, and please join me today in making a donation to her foundation. As importantly, please join me in taking a moment (or two, or every one) and making a choice to see and share that opportunity for love.