29 January, 2015

Death and Legacy

Today we confront the idea of death. Today we face the reality so many of us choose to deny – that life is temporary. One day we will all pass away. While we wish for this to be a long time away, for many this is not the case. In recent days my life has been touched by three lives cut short. I am left pondering their legacy and impact, while dealing with that unanswerable question of how does this affect how I live my life?

The first is my husband’s oldest son. He died long before I ever got to meet him. He fought a long, drawn out, bitter battle with cancer from the time he was a little boy until the end of his life. Still he was happy and joyous and faced the battle before him in a way only children can. He was resilient, strong and wanted to live as much as he could. He got a job at McDonalds, and in every photo I see had a smile that warms your heart.

This time of year is hard for D, and by extension hard for me. More than a decade later this loss still affects the man I love. He still grieves his son. I grieve with him, wishing to have met this little boy who my husband fought beside and loved.

Cancer in children is hard. The suffering of children is overwhelming. I watched my nephew battle (and defeat) cancer when he was three. Treatment, sickness, pain, uncertainty. It is hard to watch someone so little suffer and as someone in their lives you are powerless to do much about it.

From Kara's Facebook page
I have been following the journey of Kara Tippetts as she battles breast cancer. She is a strong, fiery, God loving woman, who has found a way to reveal God’s grace in every step of her journey. Many were turned onto her when she penned an open letter to Brittany Maynard. Now Kara has written the blog she never wanted to. Earlier this month her husband called hospice. In reading’s Kara’s blog I see a trust in God I wish I had. Maybe a life-consuming, all joy-giving, each moment-counting, total surrender faith like that can only come when faced with an insurmountable challenge. Do you fold under the pressure or turn and give it all to God?  

In her blog on hospice, Kara writes: I get to pray into eternity my hopes and fears for the moments of my loves. I get to laugh and cry and wonder over heaven. I do not feel like I have the courage for this journey, but I have Jesus- and He will provide it. He has given me so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude, that wondering over His love will cover us all. And it will carry us- carry us in ways we cannot comprehend. It will be a new living and trusting for many in my community. Loving with a great big open hand to my story being the good story- even when it feels so broken.

I just finished Kara’s book The Hardest Peace. Kara walks through her life, her relationship with Jason, the sorrow of what she’s knows she’ll miss in her kids life. It is raw and real. Kara has found a deeper ministry through her cancer. A strength only from God as her body is so weak. She is humble, open and calls us all to bigger faith by letting go of what we left define and comfort us.

Image via Bloggeritis 
Last weekend I watched McConkey, a documentary about skier and BASE jumper Shane McConkey, who did so much for the sport of freeskiing and helped start ski-BASE jumping.

The film tells about Shane’s life, from being born to skiing loving parents, to attending one of the premiere ski schools, to leaving CU Boulder to pursue what he loved – being on the slopes. He lived hand to mouth while doing what he loved. Methodical and fearless, he took freeskiing to a whole new level. Once he found out about BASE jumping, his love was set.

Through interviews with family, friends and footage from the video camera Shane always had with him, the film shows the passion and drive behind a legend. He made a name for himself through ski films and competition.

Shane passed away on a jump in 2009. Something went wrong and a ski did not come off when it should, sending him into a spiral. Unable to deploy his shoot, Shane died doing what he loved. At 39, he left behind a wife and young daughter and a community of dear friends and followers who fell in love with the kind open-hearted, passionate, fun man. There were inherent dangers in what he did. As many in the film pointed out: you only get to make one mistake in BASE jumping. The added element of skis only increased the risk.

Shane figured out how to live life to the fullest – on his own terms, in his own amazing way. His passion for life leaves an open invitation for others to do the same.

As I watched the film I tried to figure out what in my life I valued that highly. What in my life would I give up all I have, work to just get by, and pursue with reckless abandon? And in wrestling with that I kept coming back to loving those around me. I want people to talk about how I loved those in my life. I want to be there for those in my circle. To be generous, kind and giving. I want people to look at my marriage and see the same passion Shane had in his life.I would sell all I have and just get by for D and I to have the quiet, uncluttered life we dream about. 

Perhaps from D’s son, Kara and Shane is the lesson that life is short, and at the end all we have is our impact on other people. We are responsible for how we treat others and what we do with our time.

So what is your legacy? How will you be remembered? What do you love with such reckless abandon that at the end of your time here, people will remember that most of all?

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© Amanda Lunday