some sad news

Grief is inexplicable but I will try to process mine here.

This week I was going to write about the power of gratitude and unfortunately life served up a profound reminder of why it’s so necessary.

Because life can change in an instant.

On Saturday evening, my friends Alison and Tom lost their 17-year-old son Blake.

He died suddenly from cardiac arrest. His team had just won their soccer championship game. When he collapsed, he was surrounded by his friends.

The grief that has ensued from this tragedy is hard to place, and I feel my heart wanting to cry at any given point in the day.

It is unimaginable.

The sudden absence of the most important part of your life, your child, gone. Just like that.

No matter how hard my friends and I want to hold space in our own hearts for the pain they are feeling, I also know that no one will be able to fill the emptiness, the quiet of his room, his desk where he just submitted his college applications. The void. The darkness. Nothing will bring him back.

But in this darkness, I have also witnessed deep inspiration, and I sit in awe of and admiration for the strength and resilience of a family gutted by tragedy.

Their resilience is what grace looks like.

Alison and I met when we were 12 years old on Long Beach Island. We shucked clams together in our first job and then worked our way up to carrying lobsters as waitresses at the Boat House on the bay. We were carefree teenagers with the deep bonds only a summer friendship can provide, and I cherish this still.

I think back on her joys as I stood by her side as a bridesmaid when she got married to our mutual friend, shared in her joy as she gave birth to her two children, and then witnessed the two of them construct a safe and loving life for their kids, filled with opportunity and hope.

How can a person know it can all go away in a moment?

As we celebrated Blake’s life yesterday in a room of nearly 1,000 people, we honored the fullness of his life as captured by his family. Blake was a smart young man who carried the sincere kindness of his mom and the jovial humor of his dad. He wanted to be a lawyer, and he loved his younger sister. His smile could light up a room.

I’ve been trying to sort through my own emotions this week and I find myself hugging my kids more often but also trying to “shake the pain” because it just feels so raw. It feels something like a heavy weight deep at the bottom of my heart, one that is forcing me to ask the larger questions about life.

Our purpose, our path, and what it all really means.

What do we get so stressed about? Why is it so hard to see past the minutiae of a day? Why can’t we feel more joy and appreciation simply for the fact that we are breathing?

And that we already have so much?

Blake will never know what it’s like to grow up.

He will never know the anguish of growing old. He will experience neither the joys nor the travails of life. He will not know college, nor the manifestation of all those hopes and dreams a parent passes on to their child.

But if you believe that there is indeed something beyond what we know, you can also believe that while Blake cannot grow in this way, Blake will keep on growing. His memory will allow each heart he touched in his short life to change, in the most profound ways. His spirit will live on in the words of his parents, his sister, his friends and his humble and faith-filled family.

It’s tragic that tragedy is a reminder about the brevity of our lives, forcing us to question how we are living it.

What we worry about.

And why we don’t embrace more fully the seconds and the minutes and the hours that make up our days.

Because each day is a gift. A clichéd expression that may also be the most profound.

I hope you soak up the loving kindness that surrounds you and hold on tightly to the things that really matter in your one wild and precious life.

With fierce love,

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