As I sit and sip my coffee on this Memorial Day, I can't help but be struck by life and loss. Why is it that losing can show us so much about living? Grief is such a powerful teacher. While the losses I've experienced have not been of soldiers giving their lives to protect our country, this holiday always encourages me to spend a few moments thinking about purpose and sacrifice. And so I sit here thinking about what I've learned from those I've lost.
Don't give up. Don't ever give up.
It has been just over a week since we celebrated the life of Ashleigh Blumer Kohlitz. I had the absolute honor of knowing this precious soul - both before and after her brain tumors. Now, here is a person who was going through absolute hell, but would you have known it from her optimism, smile, and zest for life? Absolutely not. She attacked every single adventure (and obstacle) with strength and conviction. I remember going to a radiation appointment with her and being completely overwhelmed by her fortitude and perseverance. Her matter-of-factness about her condition and her unwavering dedication to savoring every moment has taught me so much.
From Ashleigh I learned to take every obstacle, ever challenge head on. To know who is in your corner and keep them dear. To not let anything ruin your spirit. To savor life and shower those around you with love. And to not waste one single moment.
Oh, Kurt. It has been over 6.5 years since I last received one of your bear hugs. Those ones where the whole world just fades away and you know that you are safe. I am immensely grateful for the years I had with Kurt Schmitz as my friend and protector. He showed me that life and emotions can be so...much. I don't know that I have ever met someone who loves and cares as fiercely as Kurt. He showed up in every moment of need, for a hug, a Cookout milkshake, a movie night, you name it.
From Kurt I learned to say what I need, to be open and vulnerable. I learned to embrace life - the ups, the downs - and grab it by the horns. I also learned that family extends so far beyond blood, and boy am I grateful for gaining the Schmitz family as an extension of my own. Fierce, fun, full of life.
Throw kindness around like confetti.
Ginny and Natalie. You both shared so much with those around you during your time on this earth. Talk about wide circles, ripples extending far from the touchpoints you had on the souls of those around you. As athletes, you were fearless. As a coach, you gave everything to the team. When I think of you, Ginny, I think of the belief you had in the team. And Natalie, that smile.
From Ginny and Natalie I learned that life is precious, and not to be taken for granted. I learned to find your purpose and live it every day. That a hand-written note, a smile, a laugh could change someone's day. That investing and believing in others is the ultimate gift.
And so we keep on living.
Most of all, loss has shown me that how you live is what is remembered because of the impact you have on those around you. I remember a good friend of mine, Craig Kocher, once gave a speech about living a eulogy life instead of a resume life. To work backwards from how you want to be remembered - not for what you have accomplished, but for how you've made others feel. We all experience each other differently, share different pieces of ourselves with others. I am sure the memories I have of these sweet souls, lost far too soon, sound similar to some and vastly different to others. You never know what someone else is going through in a moment, or what they might remember forever.
As I sit here on this Memorial Day morning, I am thinking of each of these beautiful people, and so many others. Let us learn from each other, and feel the gifts we've received from those around us. Let us remember to live, really live, and embrace the moments we have.