August 10, 2017

A Wake Up Call from a Terminally Ill Young Man.

Yesterday, we partnered with a group similar to Make-A-Wish to drive a terminal cancer patient and his family in our party bus to celebrate his 21st birthday with even more family and friends.

Because all of my drivers were unavailable, I dusted off my license and drove them myself.

I was expecting to feel leveled by what I was about to experience but nothing prepared me for what I actually saw.

I picked up an extremely tiny and frail young man—hair gone, a yellow tinge to his skin, and wheeled out in a wheelchair by his father and brother. They wanted no party lights and no music, just a safe, quiet ride to his party. Talk was subdued and there was no laughter. It seemed like a very solemn moment, and I most certainly felt and understood the heaviness in the air.

When I returned three hours later to pick them up, I was greeted by an entirely different young man; he was smiling, his skin had color to it, and he walked to the shuttle. The rest of his family followed with balloons and gifts and stories. The ride back was filled with sweet laughter, shared memories, and gratitude for who had come to what was a celebration of life he himself got to partake in.

You could feel the happiness in his heart. The smile in his soul. And it was one of the most touching moments I’ve witnessed.

The sweet old grandmother, bundled up like a marshmallow, spoke no English but took both of my hands in hers and kissed them, all without saying a word. It was the straw that sent my barely-holding-it-together self into sobs.

I thought about this young man the entire rest of the night. And his influence was felt in my dreams.

I thought about his family having to say goodbye. I thought about the memories he had made with them, and equally, the ones that he will never get to make. I thought about the vast difference between the man I dropped off and the same young man I picked back up. Although nothing had changed in his plight, so much had changed in him.

It made me really reflect on what’s important. In my life, in his, in all of ours. And I got a much needed glimpse of what positive things do to us and for us.

I feel a resolve for something I’ve personally needed for a long time—to just breathe and appreciate. A lesson I think we all need reminded of once in a while, a new perspective of what truly, truly matters.

Cherish your family, appreciate your friends, be grateful for what’s already in front of you. Seek out what makes you feel alive. Eliminate what doesn’t. Be with people who light you up. Make your life its own celebration while you’re here to enjoy it.

None of us know how much time we really have so find what makes our hearts happy and our souls smile.

Author: Sarah Grant-Welliver 
Image: Juan Munévar/Flickr 
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Danielle Beutell

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Sarah Grant-Welliver