Please, please, enjoy life.
These are not my words. They are Charlotte Kitley's words. Words from her final blog post entitled "And So There Must Come An End." Charlotte had cancer and died this week, on Tuesday, September 16th. Her final piece on The Huffington Post UK was published the day following her death. This piece, most rightly, has gone viral. If you are a human being with a body and mind and heart, her words will make you cry or shake or curse or, as in my case, do all of the above and then write a blog post.
I tried very hard to avoid reading Charlotte's post. It popped up again and again and again in my social media feeds, but I refused to click. A writer friend sent the post to me (and others) in an email. She titled the email "A Poignant Reminder." I opened the email and skimmed and swiftly averted my eyes. I couldn't even read her email about the post. I went back to my good and busy and complicated life. My world. My day.
You see, I'm petrified of cancer. Cancer snatched my father, leaving a hole I can write about, but never patch. Cancer has affected and is affecting far too many of my friends, older and newer, real and virtu-real. I am scared to death of cancer, especially now that I'm a mother to three little girls, sisters whom I call the Rowlets, creatures who love me and need me, creatures whom I love and need. The mere thought of not being here for them breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces. The mere thought.
And so. I avoided reading Charlotte's blog post for the reason many of us avoid many things: because I knew it would make me feel something hard, that it would affect me, that it would probably rattle me to the core.
The moment came this morning. It was a quiet moment in a coffee shop near my youngest daughter's preschool. I sat and sipped coffee and stared into my loyal laptop screen and I fiddled around and out of nowhere, I just decided I needed to do it. I read the post. I read it again and again. And as I read, the din of New York City strangers and stories swelling around me, I felt my whole body trembling. I felt a deep, piercing sadness for this woman I didn't know, for her family who now grieves.
And then it came: a wild blaze of gratitude. That I have this moment, this day, this life. And with this gratitude, a lightning bolt of duty. I am alive. I am here. I must remind people to live. To do what they can to enjoy life. And so that's what I'm doing. By writing my own words. By sharing Charlotte's. Take a deep breath and read the following. Don't skim or race through. Read slowly. With purpose. And then read them again if you can.
So, in my absence, please, please, enjoy life. Take it by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it. Adore your children. You have literally no idea how blessed you are to shout at them in the morning to hurry up and clean their teeth.
Embrace your loved one and if they cannot embrace you back, find someone who will. Everyone deserves to love and be loved in return. Don't settle for less. Find a job you enjoy, but don't become a slave to it. You will not have 'I wish I'd worked more' on your headstone. Dance, laugh and eat with your friends. True, honest, strong friendships are an utter blessing and a choice we get to make, rather than have to share a loyalty with because there happens to be link through blood. Choose wisely then treasure them with all the love you can muster. Surround yourself with beautiful things. Life has a lot of grey and sadness -- look for that rainbow and frame it. There is beauty in everything, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to see it.
Charley, as she signed her final post, was 36.
I will turn 36 in two weeks.
Please, please enjoy life.
They are her words, but now they are also mine.
Now they are all of ours.
To read more of Aidan's writing, visit her blog.