As interns, we have the privilege of responding to the mail we get here at TWLOHA. Sometimes that means we get to answer questions, handle donations, or hear someone’s story. The activities of going to the post office, opening envelopes, and recording information become routine—but the lives we connect with never cease to transform us.
Lately, we’ve experienced parts of the beautiful story of Emily, who recently passed away in a car accident. She was a 17-year-old daughter, friend, sister, and supporter of TWLOHA.
We did not personally know Emily, but we have been touched by her. It seems this was a theme in her life. Emily was an activist for her friends as they struggled. She fought to spread the hope she had found to those around her. Even in her passing, she has brought life to so many others; in a letter from her mom, we learned Emily was an organ donor and helped up to 50 individuals in need of transplants. And today, as her family places her ashes in a coral reef, beauty continues to come from her story. The ramifications of the way Emily lived will endure.
Death in any circumstance raises a multitude of questions. It draws us back to the basics.
“Why did this happen?”
“Who is God? Who am I?”
And the age-old question: “What is the meaning of life?”
When life is easy, when our worries are far off, we tend to push these questions away. It is in our pain that we are forced to confront these questions. But doesn’t that suggest we weren’t meant to struggle alone? Questions by their very definition provoke conversation. We need other people. We are meant to talk, to process, to let people love us and walk alongside us.
Emily’s mom included a quote from her daughter in the letter she sent to us: “When every day seems so long and everything seems to be falling apart, the first thing you do is borrow hope, love, or faith from someone who cares.”
It’s good to have questions. It’s healthy to lean on others for support. These things make us feel alive. When we are lacking in hope, love, or faith, we can look to our friends, family, and community. It may not erase the pain, at least not right away, but it can make it bearable. It can make life better.
People need other people, and that’s OK. It’s better than OK, it’s exciting and wonderful. We get to play a part in other people’s stories, and we get to let them play a part in ours.
So today, in honor of Emily and all the other stories that play into the larger TWLOHA story, look around you. Can you ask people these tough questions? Are there people who need you to listen? Reach out to those you love. You never know how a simple smile or taking a minute to genuinely listen might affect another person. You never know how far your actions can go, who your story will reach, whose life you can change.
(Emily with her father, Joe)
—Rebecca and Samantha, Summer 2013 interns
If you’d like to donate in honor or in memory of someone, you can do so through our Donate page. If you have more questions about setting up memorial funds or donations, please email [email protected].