(In loving memory of Stephanie Jean Burton: 1971-2017)
On November 30th one of my oldest and best friends was struck by a car. Two days later she died of her injuries. We’ve been friends since we were 5 years old and, although we hadn’t spent a lot of time together as adults, she was an integral part of my childhood and adolescence. Her death was a blow that rocked the foundations of my world. Yet, in the midst of my shock and despair a thought came to me: We don’t get to choose the beginning of our story and we seldom get to chose the ending, but its what’s in the middle that really counts. It’s in the chapters between the beginning and ending of a story where character is developed, challenges are faced, and lessons are learned. This is where the love and adventure and heartache happen. This is where the essence of who we truly are shines through. We may not control the beginning or the ending of our life story, but what is written in the middle is entirely up to us.
That can be a frightening thing. None of us knows how many pages we have to fill and facing those finite, blank pages of life can sometimes be paralyzing. What if we make the wrong choices, fill our lives with the wrong things? Fear can freeze our momentum until we can’t bring ourselves to act with deliberate intention. Instead, we may float along, allowing each page to be filled as it may.
At other times, we may find ourselves caught up in reviewing chapters that came before. We spend our days striving to relive what has already passed, never giving thought to how our current pages are filling up.
My sweet friend’s life was not written in such a way. While she experienced her share of tragedy, she deliberately filled the pages of her life with joy, love, laughter and adventure. The middle of her story impacted the stories of countless others for the better. And though, to us, her story seems tragically cut short, it will continue to be shared, impacting the lives of countless more.
What more could we hope for than a story rich with chapters of a life well-lived? That kind of story doesn’t happen by chance; it happens with intent. The beginning is already written. The ending is, as yet, unknown. What will be in the middle of your story? Only you can write it.
Thank you, my friend, for sharing this and many other life lessons with me. Your story is one I will carry with me forever in my heart.