caught in between 10 and 20…
…there’s never a wish, better than this.
When you’ve only got 100 years to live.”
The lyrics above are taken from a song sung by the group Five for Fighting. I will always remember when this song was popular. It was nearly spring time in southwest Michigan. There was still plenty of snow and cold left but a few scattered warm days bring the promise that warm sunshine will soon chase away the snow drifts and the green grass and tender flowers of spring will soon appear blanketing the earth with their glorious colors. Spring brings life and a promise of new
beginnings. We shed layers of warm winter clothing as we emerge from our winter hibernation and the warm sun touches our face and we know we have survived the long, dark winter nights with the wind whipping and howling outside, threatening. Hope can be seen in each new flower, in the appearance of the red-breasted Robin and in each tiny, green bud firmly attached to its branch as it prepares to burst forth adding to the glorious rainbow of nature’s pallet.
But for me spring of 2004 is none of these things. I sit in a dark, cold, windowless office at a desk made of steel and pressed wood from some tree which never saw another spring.
I have just learned of the death of a friend. Sean was all the beautiful things in the world; the gentle smile of a stranger, the kind words of a friend, the vibrant colors of a glorious bed of spring flowers, the joy and exuberance of a new foal discovering the speed and agility of his legs for the first time, the smell of freshly cut grass, the feeling of sunshine on your face, a gentle breeze which caresses your cheek, the sound of the waves crashing around a Lake Michigan pier.
Sean was just 35 when he died a horrible, slow death caused by the careless and selfish acts of others. A few weeks before his death, Sean had unknowingly driven through a cloud
of anhydrous ammonia from a tank left unlocked by the side of the road. Anhydrous ammonia is an ingredient needed for cooking meth and it is suspected someone was trying to steal the chemical used to prepare farmer’s fields for planting.
The deadly chemical cloud destroyed Sean’s lungs and he died a few days after his 35th birthday; his lungs literally disintegrating as he suffocated in his own blood.
“I’m just 15 for a moment, caught in between 10 and 20…
…Half time goes by
Suddenly you're wise
Another blink of an eye
Sixty seven is gone
The sun is getting high
We're moving on…”
The lyrics roll around in my head and I am constantly reminded that for Sean it simply wasn’t true. Life is so fleeting, our time is short. Sean crammed more love for others, more life and more living in his 35 years than many people do in twice as much time. He lived his dreams, he sought and found adventure, and he shared his amazing gifts with the world as he traveled on cruise ships working as a singer bringing joy to others with his amazing voice and personality. Sean saw the
good in people and he had a way of bringing it out in every life he touched. But now his amazing light had been snuffed out and like everyone who loved Sean I was left with a painful, gaping hole in my heart which would never be filled.
Sean and I shared a special connection through a favorite horse; a broodmare named Shamrock and her first filly; a horse I named Diva. I trained Diva as a foal and yearling until Sean’s sister bought her and moved her to Colorado in 1999. Each year Sean and I waited in anticipation to see Shamrock’s new foal. Sean wanted a tobiano filly like Diva; a horse he dreamed of owning one day. In the years since Diva was born, Shamrock produced only colts. A month after Sean died; Shamrock had a beautiful tobiano filly – the filly Sean had always dreamed of. I still think of that filly as Sean’s horse though I have no idea where she ended up. I’m sure the current owners have no knowledge of the dreams Sean had for his mare but I believe that mare holds a piece of Sean’s amazing spirit and capacity to love in her heart.
“I'm ninety nine for a moment
Dying for just another moment
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are
Fifteen there's still time for you
Twenty two I feel her too
Thirty three you're on your way
Every day's a new day
Fifteen there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to choose
Hey fifteen, there's never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live.”
It has been nearly 10 years since Sean died. I am now 36, I’ve been given at least one more year than Sean had…what am I going to do with it? Will I let my fears and insecurities engulf me, keeping me forever in a state of hiding in the false safety of winter hibernation? Or will I burst forth with the exuberance of spring? Will I listen to others with genuine curiosity rather than judgment? Will I treat others with respect even if their beliefs and values do not align with my own? Will I be brave and kind and live my dreams? Will I share my gifts with the world and show others what it means to love one another and all of God’s creation?
The song still makes me a little sad when I think of what the world lost when Sean died. But now I no longer dwell in the sorrow of loss but rather I am reminded of how little time I
have to be kind, to learn, to grow, to love, to share, to take in the smells that I love, to scratch the withers of a new foal, to hold a soft puppy in my arms, to feel the wind against my face, to listen to the call of the Lake, to sit in silence with my horse, to tell my family and friends that I love them.
“There’s never a wish better than this; when you’ve only got 100 years to live.”
If you would like to honor the memory of a special person please feel free to share your story here. In times of loss it can be helpful to others to read the experiences of others who have felt or are feeling the indescribable pain of missing someone whose existence was such an important part of their own life.