It’s easy to see the wisdom gained from a long life. Years combine with experience to produce a unique clarity that only living can teach you. I have learned extraordinary lessons from the elders in my life, but when you love someone who knows that they will probably die young (no matter how much you hope they won’t) there are other lessons, and a different kind of wisdom can be gained.
I really don’t want to be maudlin. My friend passed away from liver failure caused by something she was born with. She had her first transplant as a teenager, so in a way, any time after that first transplant was simply a bonus round. I think she knew this, too.
Lacey didn’t wait for joy. That’s probably the biggest lesson. C and I would sometimes talk about how impatient Lacey was. And she was. Impatient for life, for love, for experience. She was the ultimate impulse buyer. Why wait? When you know that your time is limited, patience is no longer a virtue. Can everyone live like that? No, but maybe even those of us planning for long life could learn a little impatience when life presents us with an opportunity.
Unbridled enthusiasm is nothing to scoff at. Lacey was an unapologetic fangirl. She adored Disney, especially anything vintage. She jumped up and down for her favorite bands. She sobbed (not lying) when the original Star Tours closed down at Disneyland because she was convinced that no update could beat the original. Her tumblr dashboard was filled with pugs in funny costumes. Why? Because she loved pugs. In costumes. What’s to explain? She tattooed her skin, marking her tiny body with the things she loved in life, affixing them as permanently as she could. She gave no heed to those of us trying to be “cool.” Why would she? She didn’t have time for detachment.
She was quick to forgive. As quickly as she would get angry at someone, she was just as quick to forgive when the person was sincere. When I asked her once why she was so willing to reconcile with someone who had been absent from her life, she only had one answer. “Because I’m dying.” Well, as much as we hoped she was wrong, she wasn’t. She forgave him, and I hope he has some peace about their relationship.
In the end, we’re all dying. I may have another sixty years, or I may have sixty minutes. If I have learned anything in my thirty-four years, it’s that life is unexpected. So maybe when I ask myself whether something is worth the wait, whether it’s worth my energy, whether someone is worth my forgiveness, I’ll give the same answer as Lacey did. An unapologetic ‘yes’ to life.
Because we’re all dying. Some of us just have more time than she did.