Pretend for a moment that you are the author of your own life’s story.
What kind of story would you write?
What would be the most interesting parts of your story?
Where would we find your life’s story if we were browsing a bookstore…
Is it a raucous comedy? An inspirational love story? A heartrending tragedy?
Over the course of the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about stories.
This weekend we celebrated what would have been Hudson’s eighth birthday. Every year I make an elaborate birthday cake for Hudson… and we gather with our closest family to contemplate the impact her sweet and short life had on all of us. I say elaborate because it has become my own form of therapy to make birthday cakes that are just outside of my comfort zone (in terms of recipe and design). One particularly elaborate year, I made a 5-layer cake with a hazelnut meringue crunch disk between each layer, coated with rainbow-colored buttercream pedals.
Every year I scour Pinterest, and review my mother’s recommendations, and make a determination based on a mix of my own abilities, the deliciousness factor, and how much time it will take to secure any off-the-beaten-path supplies.
This year, I chose to also consult with my children.
Now, if you have children of your own then you know how ill-advised it is to have your children chime in on anything related to a party. You end up with weird mish-mashed themes, unrealistic expectations, sweat and stress! But the kids chose the theme for their Daddy’s birthday cake this year and got a taste of that power, so when word was out that a cake was in the works, they did not hesitate to chime in.
Plus, Zeb’s cake adorned with a tableau of him punching a shark out of a wave turned out too good for me to not at least take the kids’ ideas into consideration.
They took the task seriously. Anson asked me “What did Hudson like?”
She liked it when Zeb and I would read to her.
I don’t have much in the way of physical evidence to support this – in Hudson’s three days, she gave little indication that she knew what was going on in the world around her – but she did hold my finger, and her heart rate would react to our touch, and reading to her was about the most normal parenting thing we got to do with her in those three days… And at the end of the day, I just believe in the magic of parent-child connection enough to not even hesitate when answering.
She liked it when Daddy and I would read to her.
“Let’s make her a book cake!”
And so it was decided.
Every weekend I’ve been running a 5K and donating what I would have paid in race fees to the Forget Me Not Foundation in Spokane. On each run, I’ve tried to be intentional in my thoughts – focusing in on a theme I want to contemplate while putting one foot in front of the other. The first run, I thought about leadership. And this weekend, on Hudson’s 8th birthday, I thought about the story of our lives.
I am writing this on the 8 year anniversary of the worst day of my life. Eight years ago, I held my baby daughter for the first time… as her heart slowed to a stop. This is the tragedy of my life. The unequivocal worst day. There was disbelief and bargaining and anguish and hopelessness.
This should not have happened to her. This should not have happened to us. Life isn’t supposed to be like this.
For weeks after, I would show up with a brave face during the day and crumble to uselessness at night. I remember one particularly awful night I thought I felt Hudson kicking, which led me to weep silently on my side until Zeb realized I was crying and turned to hold me. “I just want my baby” I explained.
Eight years later, and I’ve felt three more strong and incredible babies kick. I’ve held each of them within the first moments of their lives on earth. I’ve watched first steps, marveled at first words, been simultaneously delighted and frustrated by them.
And I’ve read them thousands of books.
On the morning of Hudson’s birthday, I asked Zeb over breakfast “Eight years ago, did you ever imagine life could be so great?”
Our story has some sad, sad pages. But our lives are filled with joy. Joy that is made even more beautiful because of the sad parts.
Hudson’s book birthday cake was designed to look like an open children’s book. I used fondant for the first time ever, and wrote in my most careful storybook cursive the words “She Believed She Could… so she did.” These words were on the walls of Hudson’s nursery that she never got to come home to – they are on the teeshirts for Hudson’s heroes runners … and they’ve come to symbolize that indomitable spirit of a 7 lb. 14 oz. redhead whose eyes never opened but whose life changed the world.
At Hudson’s birthday celebration this weekend, my grandma – GG – asked me, “What do those words mean to you?”
Those words are a rally cry for me.
She believed she could – so she did.
– if there is a dream on your heart, it is a belief that you just haven’t put action behind yet.
Even short stories can be life-changing.
None of us get to choose how many pages the story will have. But with every new page we have an opportunity to choose where to take the story next.
The Hudson’s Heroes teeshirts have the dates July 11 – July 14 printed on them – and under the dates of her short life, the words “The best three days ever.”
Looking back, I have to say that July 11-July 14 were probably NOT the best three days of my life but they are some of the most pivotal. They are a major turning point in my story – marking a turn of the page from what I expected life to be for me and what I needed to make life for myself.
No one’s life can be characterized by one genre of story. I opened this by asking if yours was a comedy, a romance, a tragedy. But my life is all of those things, and a thousand more. As I look at where I’m at in my life’s story, Hudson reminds me that you do not need 37 years or 100 years to make an impact. She reminds me that every single day is a page in the story and we can decide anytime we choose to make that story a lifechanging one.
ANYTIME. Not just when something amazing happens. Not only when bad things happen. Any random Tuesday, you can choose to change the story, to play the hero instead of the victim, to become an adventurer, a conqueror, a lover, a fighter, a champion for yourself and for others.
The most interesting parts of a well-written story are not the things that happen to the hero. It is the choices that the hero makes, the actions the hero takes, who the hero becomes in the process.
Your life’s story is being written right now. Choose today to make it epic.
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