This week marks the five-year anniversary of the death of a dear friend of mine, Cindy Ward. Cindy died of complications of anorexia at the age of 29—ironically, right at the beginning of Eating Disorder Awareness Week in 2005. This time of year, then, is always bittersweet for me as I see the efforts and outreach events planned to help raise awareness and educate people about the very thing which stole my friend’s life out of season.
Five years is both a short time and a long time, depending on one’s perspective—it’s a short time, for example, to be married; it’s a long time to be a prisoner of war. It’s a short time to enjoy the life of a child—and a very long time to live without the child after her passing.
We can do a lot in five years time, can’t we? I was thinking last night about all the things that have happened, just in my own singular, fleeting-as-vapor life in the five years since Cindy passed away. I’ve gone from mother-of-a-toddler to mother-of-a-second-grader. I watched my grandmother take her last breath. I’ve changed jobs twice. I bought a house. I got laid off. I wrote a book. And I got to wondering what might have happened in Cindy’s life that she never lived to see or accomplish. Would she have gotten married? Had a child? Gone back to school? Written a book or gone on a mission trip or shared her faith with dying hearts? She might have. But her own dying heart beat her to the punch.
I truly believe Cindy didn’t see it coming. Even after multiple heart attacks before age thirty, she didn’t really think she’d die. If she had known, she would have done things differently. I just know this.
So, naturally, I got to feeling philosophical and weepy about it all. It’s become a cliché, to lament that life is short, our days are numbered, blah, blah, blah. It’s become so trite, I think, that we forget that it is true—and we never know for whom it will be true next. What if it’s me? Or you? What do we want to do before our number is up? If it’s something huge and seemingly insurmountable, shouldn’t we at least give it a shot so it can be said that we died trying?
I’m not sad for Cindy; I know where she is and Who she is with. And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that even if she could come back here, she wouldn’t—not for one minute. I’m not even all that sad for myself anymore, as I was when she first passed. It dulls after a while, the longing for one last hug, one more email or card or phone call. We move from grieving to acceptance—and maybe we even feel a little guilty about that as the grief becomes lighter and lighter a burden. What I’m sad about is the loss of what could have been—how Cindy could have contributed to the world over the past five years. She could have done so much with her talents, her generous spirit, her kind heart. And I’ll never know exactly what.
But all of you who are reading this are still here. And not to be morose, but of those who will read this, one of you will be next to leave this Earth. Someone has to be. Maybe it will be you. Or me. If it is, are we making the most of our time until we graduate out of this world? Are we chasing a dream or working on a goal or loving to the fullest of our hearts’ potential? I can’t answer for you; I can only answer for myself, and I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m not. I’ve gotten complacent in a few areas. I’m dragging my feet on some things for fear of failure. And really, what’s the worst that could happen?
I know my friend, and if she could come back for five minutes, I think she would tell us to shrug off the fear that binds us and go for it—whatever our particular “it” is.
So . . . shall we?
In joyful, loving memory:
Cindy Ward (1975-2005)
“Cowgirl up, Cindy!”
For futher information about National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2010 (Feb. 21-27), check out http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/programs-events/nedawareness-week.php