This photo has become especially meaningful for me. I snapped it on the morning of Oct. 23 as I was leaving the gym at Mount St. Joseph University after interviewing Lauren Hill. The sun’s rays were starting to dissolve a thick fog that had obscured the gorgeous sunrise.
When I saw the sun burning off the fog, I thought: That’s what Lauren is doing.
You probably know her story by now. Lauren was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor during her senior year in high school. She asked God for a little guidance on what she should do with her final year of life.
Ask, and you will receive. She wanted direction. She got it.
Lauren decided to attend Mount St. Joseph’s as planned and to play basketball, even though she had only months to live. The goal was to play in a game and score a basket. As it turned out, she played in four and made five baskets — 10 perfect points.
She also worked through a foundation to raise money for cancer research, hoping doctors will find a cure for other young people after she’s gone.
Yeah, I know: Spending your precious, limited time helping others instead of worrying about yourself. What a concept.
But most of all, she showed what it means to value every day as the ultimate gift that it is. To live, rather than merely exist. She tried to shine a little light into the fog of our lives.
And let’s face it: We’re all fog-bound.
It’s so easy to live on autopilot. Just get through the day. Do what’s expected. Meet our obligations. Keep up with the pack. Follow what other people think. Keep our heads down. Trudge on.
And the fog deepens.
Soon, we’ve stopped seeing things. Things that are important. Things that really matter.
We stop noticing the people who love us. The colorful sunrises and sunsets. The miracle that is all around us and within us. We become afraid to take risks. We don’t give much thought to what we’re really doing with each day.
That’s where Lauren came in. She wanted to show us what it’s like to recognize each day as a great blessing, a precious gift, an enormous opportunity.
We’ve been given the gift of another day. What will we do with it? How will we celebrate it? How will we enjoy it? How will we use it to help someone else? How will we touch and change the world in some small but significant way today?
How much are we willing to love? To love others and to love life?
We ask the questions and listen for the answers inside of us. And then try — really try — to live the answers with passion as best we can, on any given day.
We find the courage to invite people into our lives, pull them close, hug them tightly, and give them our hearts. And we do it even though we know from experience that as part of the exchange, our hearts will get broken at some point.
And — this one’s important — we learn to be thankful to the Giver of Life for the next heartbeat, the next breath, the next tear, the next smile, the next amazing sunrise and sunset, the next moment of pain and joy and inspiration.
Lauren acknowledged that she didn’t start living quite so passionately until she got her diagnosis. It’s far easier to appreciate each day when you’ve got an inoperable lump growing somewhere in your body and the doctors have given you an expiration date.
But we don’t need a lump to get a little better at it day by day. All it takes is some effort and a decision to move out of the fog and into that glorious light.
To understand a little bit better that, as Lauren put it, “Life is precious. Every moment you get with someone is a moment that’s blessed, really blessed.”
Too blessed to get lost in the fog.
The fog returns every day. That’s just the way it is. And the sun returns every day, too. It strips away the fog and reveals things to us. Things that have been there all along.
Just hidden in the haze.
(Note: Lauren Hill died on April 10. Her memorial was held at Xavier University’s basketball arena, the site of her first game. Her casket was placed at the spot where she made her first layup five months earlier. Thousands of people gave her a standing ovation as the casket was wheeled away.)