I think something I’ve strived for over the last decade of my life, is to this life to the absolute fullest. I embrace every moment with friends and family. Seek new adventure all the time. Make every moment I possibly can count. I realize that one day I may not have the ability and that makes this life very short… so I hang out with friends whenever I can, I run, I hike, I ride my bike, I camp, I backpack, I seek adventure wherever I can. No matter how great or small it may be. I want to die one day knowing that I didn’t hold back… I want people to remember me as someone who had lived life to the fullest. And I spend time with my daughter trying to instill this same value in her.
Those of you that know me even a little bit, know that I’m an avid cyclist. A few weeks ago, our little cycling community lost one of our own in a tragic way. Her name was Gwen Inglis, she was a National Champion, but more than that, she was also a friend we rode bikes with in our cycling circles. I’d met Gwen at least once that I could recall, but she was dear friends with many of the people in my immediate circle. She was on a ride with her husband when she was killed by an impaired driver in a crash that happened on a quiet Sunday morning a few weeks ago.
The day after the crash, I met a friend for a run in the morning and I drove past the site where she died. My heart dropped. The number of times I rode my bike through this very spot… the wide shoulder, the small amount of traffic… I was shaken to the core, more than I already was. As a cyclist we go out on our bikes usually saying “its not a matter of if we get his by a car, it’s a matter of when”. But this… this hurt so much more.
As my friend and I prepared to head out for our run, we were somber. Both of us are tightly knit into the cycling community and we were feeling every emotion. Sadness, anger, fear… I went in to the restroom as we were ready to go and, on the bar, there was a sticker, and it read:
“If you are afraid to live your life because you might die, then you already died”
The timing was impeccable, and it stuck with me.
Every day we may take some sort of risk, without even realizing it. Walking across the street, getting in our cars, going to taco bell… just kidding. I felt a need to lighten the heaviness. But seriously, we take risks in some fashion. But we have to live our life, we have to do the things that make us happy. We have make sure that don’t let ourselves die inside in fear of a physical death.
Like I said, I have lived my life like it could be short and that it could be my last adventure. Love it. Embrace it. Soak in every moment. It is so easy in a knee jerk moment like this to say I won’t ride my bike on the road anymore (one friend did say that), or I won’t ride my bike past that spot. Yesterday I went for a ride and deliberately went past Gwen’s memorial since I was in the area. I stopped to pay my respects. The ghost bike is there now with flowers and trinkets on it. Flowers adorn a cross with a bible verse written on it. A heart in white is painted on the road with Gwen’s name in it. Its heartbreaking. I choked back tears… and this was a woman I didn’t even know. But it’s in these moments that I have to remind myself, again, we have one life… one. I have to believe that given how many people loved Gwen and her accomplishments, that she lived a full life. I know the tributes I’ve seen made of her that she was loved, that she was an adventure buddy to many. That her family adored her.
So what I hope you take away from this is that every single day, you live your life. That you love your life. Don’t live in fear at every turn of the “what ifs”. Its so easy to do it nowadays it seems like… embrace the moment. Don’t get caught up in the stresses of life that can detract us from these moments, rather use these moments to help in the stresses of life. It doesn’t have to be some huge grand adventure like me… pick your own adventure! What is it that give YOU joy?
One of my favorite quotes from Ghandi: Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.