I got punched in the gut. Not literally but it felt like it (except that my sweet friend would never do that.) She posted a note on Facebook about my journey with Lyme and wrote about how my story helped with her own health after she found a tick and a rash developed. The “note” was entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Story.”
Honestly, sometimes I think this blog is a bit selfish. It helps me sort out my thoughts. I have a million ideas in my head that are usually happening all at once, so sometimes I need to get it out. It’s cathartic. Writing is a big part of who I am. I have kept a journal since I was old enough to write and started writing songs and stories when I was six. I don’t always think about my writing in practical terms – of someone’s life actually being affected by something that I was led to write about. I’m thankful that people are talking about this illness, taking precautions and learning about prevention. I hope that continues.
That title did it – the gut punch I mean. An epiphany. It made me think about how short our stories really are and how much it matters to tell each chapter, each word so we can all learn from each other. It made me want to eat life up to the full before it’s over. I grew up with four brothers. I have three now. It’s been five years this month since Ty’s accident and yet when people ask me how many siblings I have, I still don’t know how to answer that question. I always say four. A few times I stuttered profusely and ended up saying something that was probably indecipherable because I have no idea what the “acceptable” answer is. Ty lived. He had a wife and a son. He was young, smart and creative – probably a genius. He was vivacious. He gave me his old guitar and taught me a few chords and I have played ever since. He wore his hair long for years. He was an extremely gifted architect. He loved music and motorcycles. He was kind and sweet. But he is gone. His story is over, right? What did he leave on this earth? The ones who loved and lived with him – we have our memories but after we die, what will become of those memories? How do we leave a legacy? How do we keep the stories moving forward?
I don’t really have all the answers to these questions I’m throwing out here but I do know that life is a breath and we are only here for a short time. I don’t want to waste my story. And I don’t want to waste the stories of those who have left this earth too soon, too young. I think we need to tell their stories, too.
So, in keeping with the vein of not letting memories die with us – I feel the need to tell you about someone else who also died too young. I met him in college over ten years ago now. His name was Brian. He was from Michigan and loved the Lions. He was smart and giving and happy. There was a brilliant spark about him and everyone saw it. U2 was his favorite band. He loved Christmas – it was a huge deal to him. He also loved the snow. He loved playing guitar and he was in a band. He loved George W. Bush. He did a mean Neil Diamond impersonation. He loved his family. He was a literature major like myself. He told me that Catcher in the Rye was his favorite book. He helped me with my homework and would act out scenes in literature to make me laugh. He liked to play darts. He was riotously funny, like – pee your pants after every other thing he said kind of funny. He LOVED life and he squeezed everything he could out of it. We laughed a lot together and he made me see the world differently. His life changed so many lives and I don’t want people to forget him. No one had the chance to say goodbye. And that was one of the most terrible parts of his passing for many of us who knew him. He left a big gaping vacancy in this world.
“What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of good-by. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t, you feel even worse.” –Holden Caulfield Catcher in the Rye
Sometimes I fear that Ty and Brian will get lost and forgotten by us – the living. We forget so easily. I want to help people remember. I know they are with my heavenly Father – safe and sound. They are at peace from this crazy world. But they were here. They lived. They loved. They left their mark on us and on the world. We need to tell their stories as well as our own. Memories can fill up the vacancies if we tell others. Don’t waste even one story.
“Maybe nothing is more important than we keep track, you and I, of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.” -Fredrick Buechner