These people were all quite different from each other, and each will be sorely missed. Each of these losses hurt not only the families and loved ones left behind, but many, many people whose lives were touched by these lives. And each of them brings us something valuable even in death. Though we may dearly wish these people were still here, we can honor their memories by appreciating what they left in their passing. Losses like these hit different people in unique ways, so I can only speak for myself in how this impacted me. (If you would like to add what these people meant to you, please feel free to share your sentiments in the comments section below.)
I have been a fan of the Beastie Boys for a long time. While their music isn't for everyone (though most of my friends loved it), Adam "MCA" Yauch was a groundbreaking musician as well as a humanitarian. He fought for Tibetan freedom, and worked at making the world a better place. He lost a nearly three-year battle with cancer approximately a month after being inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and will be missed by his fans for quite some time (especially me). His contribution to music and his humanitarian work can remind us of the impact that one person can make, and how we can all make a difference in the world if we choose to. His death can remind us of the importance of not giving up in our search for a cure to cancer. (The cancer fundraiser Relay For Life is coming up in many areas. To learn more about what you can do, visit this resource from About.com Cancer.)
For me, Junior Seau's death from suicide is a tragedy, and a reminder. When we lost Junior, we lost a wonderful sports hero (he was a hall-of-famer, and played for my hometown, San Diego for many successful years, as well as for the New England Patriots), and this is a great loss. His life can be an inspiration for athletes and people everywhere, as we all strive toward goals that are important to us. However, his death can also serve as a reminder that depression can be more common that we may realize, and that we don't always know what personal demons others may be fighting. He had loved ones in his life, but must have felt overwhelmed, and unable to keep going. We must remember to be kind of others, and gentle with ourselves. We also need to encourage others to get help if they may need it, and remember to get help for ourselves if we ever feel we're in over our heads. It is horrible that these important truths are being brought up in response to such a tragedy, but it would be worse if this type of loss happened again if there was any chance it could have been prevented. (To learn more about depression, visit About.com Depression.)
Finally, if you haven't heard of Baby Avery, this story is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Avery was born with a rare and terminal condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. When her parents were told she had less than 18 months to live, they were devastated, as any parents would be. However, they took their pain and impending loss and turned it into something beautiful that would also raise awareness of the disease and hopefully bring us closer to a cure one day: they took to the blogsphere and created Avery's Bucket List. This was a list of experiences they thought little Avery would want to have while she still had time left. The list items ranges from mundane (like "have a bad hair day" and "play with play-dough") to the exciting, "swim with dolphins" and "throw out the first pitch at a baseball game"). At only a few months old, this remarkable little girl and her amazing parents had captured the hearts of many, many people, and the blog detailing her adventures had attracted millions of page views as well. Although her journey ended much sooner than everyone had hoped--she was just five months old--her story demonstrates something important for all of us to remember. First, her parents were extremely wise and strong to take the gut-wrenching reality of her situation and focus so strongly on the beauty and potential of her brief life, rather than the of the fact that it would be cut so tragically short. This can serve as an inspiration to every one of us, as we face pain and loss in our own lives. We always have the choice to focus on the positive aspects of a situation rather than the negative, even if the negatives are heavy and crushing. It was also beautiful that they were able to raise awareness for a disease that needs more resources behind it for a cure to be found. But ultimately, with everything they did, they brought smiles to many hearts as they showed all the wonderful things that can be done with a too-short amount of time. They also reminded us of all the things in life we take for granted or even fail to appreciate: the ball games we can attend, the artistic creations we can make, the bad hair days we are lucky enough to have. (To learn more about Avery's story, you can read her blog here.)
These stories remind me that each of us touches the lives of others in life, and each of us can make a difference in the time we have here. These stories also remind me of one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Seuss, which is eloquent and wise: "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened."
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