It was a moving tribute to a young lady who touched so many lives. Two giant screens played a video loop capturing the special moments that defined Kirsten's life. The haunting melodies from Phantom of the Opera, Kirsten's favorite play, served as a tender backdrop during the visitation period. High school teachers shared stories of her kindness and her joy in learning. Her brother Drew read a beautiful poem he penned the week before her passing.
But it was the final five minutes that will stay with me. Kirsten's mom and my dear friend Terri, directed her brief comments to the young people, especially the Millennials, her late daughter's contemporaries. I can't repeat what Terri said verbatim, but the essence of her comments and the conviction with which she shared them, was simple and powerful:
Do not define your life by straight As, by being perfect, by constantly striving at the expense of all else, most notably, your happiness. Don't define yourself by what others expect of you. And, above all, never believe that you've run out of options or that you are alone. Her words here were clear and strong:
"Talk to a parent. Talk to a grandparent, an uncle or aunt, a teacher, a friend. Just talk to somebody."
What Terri was saying, what we all need to hear, to embrace is this: it only takes one second, one word, one hug, to break the spell of despair that can overwhelm us in a singular moment. Just one hug!
With that, I wanted to close with these beautiful words by poet e.e. Cummings, on the importance of not defining yourself by what others think:
"To be nobody-but-yourself, in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."