Do it for Johnny
"Do it for Johnny!"
I've often been inspired by that line from SE Hinton's masterpiece, The Outsiders. It's a kind of Carpe Diem sentiment, and yet it's much more. It's the idea that we not only seize the day, but that we seize the day for ourselves as well as those who are no longer with us.
At the beginning of June, I lost my brother-in-law in a tragic car accident that also could have claimed the life of my husband. My brother-in-law, Matthew, was only 33.
Once upon a time that was considered a ripe old age. But of course, in a modern context, Matthew's life had really just begun. He had just found a new life he loved in the Yukon. He was finally earning decent money, learning new things, and exploring the great outdoors after leading a comparably sheltered life. Like many of us, Matthew had struggled to find a lasting, well paid, year round career in the Okanagan.
Among his many gifts, Matthew had a great ear for music. He and I chatted away excitedly on several occasions about working on new piano compositions together. Matt was very inspired by the music of film and had a naturally orchestral ear. Despite all our talk, we never got the chance to make it happen.
It's such a small thing really, in the grand scheme of all that Matthew will miss out on. Who am I to even think of what experiences I am missing with Matt? His entire family and all his friends have been stripped of his bright light. What about his parents? His sister and brother? How much will they miss? What about his buddies, his colleagues, and the girls who imagined themselves as his future wife?
So once again, who the hell am I to feel cheated of my future musical endeavours with Matthew?
Except that, it has forced me to think about time. Time is a conundrum most of us never solve. There are days it drives us mad by passing so slowly it seems to go in reverse.
How many of us have had that paradoxical experience of watching the time drag on so slowly: second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour? Some days seem to go on forever, and yet when we look back over the week, the month or the year ... We have no idea how we got there.
Where on earth did the time go? Why haven't I accomplished all I set out to do?
It's that age old balancing act: setting priorities according to our families, our finances and an endless list of obligations that only ever seems to grow, no matter how many things we check off the list.
Well, I'm not proud to say I've always had difficulty setting my priorities. My heart's desire has always sung loud and clear to me, and yet I find myself spending most of my days pursuing things unrelated to my passions. How exactly is one supposed to earn a living, make time for family, friends and community obligations and also selfishly pursue his or her dream?
Frankly? I have no idea.
But the purpose of this post, and all future related posts, is to figure that out. I feel robbed of my time with Matt. I feel robbed on his behalf.... Such a bright and shiny light with so much potential and so many gifts and talents to unleash on the world. The fruits of which, we'll never get to see.
But all my wishing, hoping and dreaming cannot bring Matt back to us. We have to move forward and except the fact that while he is gone, our lives go on. In particular, my husband is lucky to be alive. Any little change in that day's tragic events could have also turned me into a widow.
So what the hell do we do now?
I'll tell you exactly what we do. We have a choice, every single day to live the best possible life we can live. We have a choice every single day to let the small things go, to prioritize what is important, to cherish our loved ones and pursue the things that make our hearts sing.
I feel a responsibility now, not just to live all the life that I can possibly cram in, but to live enough for Matt to get his fair share too.
I don't understand the way the world works sometimes. I don't know why some people are taken from us far too soon.
All I truly know is that for some reason, I'm still here. I'm still breathing. And so I plan to live everyday with the kind of zeal that Matt had.
And I'm gonna "Do it for Matthew!"