The night of December 3rd, 1998, an all-female college a cappella group stood singing in a small dorm room in Vermont. They sang a song called “Heaven” and then stepped out into the hallway. Moments later, one of the girls collapsed for no apparent reason. The energy in the tiny hallway went from joy to panic as the women realized that their friend was in trouble. Hours later, after the young woman had been taken to the hospital and the rest of the group sat waiting in the chapel for word on her condition, the news arrived: she had died.
I was in that a cappella group, and it was my friend Christine who died. And that night changed my life forever.
Tonight marks the 10th anniversary of the night Christine died. It is a reminder to me that each of us has a limited time on this planet, and what we do with that time is what defines us. Christine filled her life with laughter and light. At her memorial service, a friend told a story about going on a road trip with her when her car started making a "ding" noise that could not be silenced. Rather than get annoyed, Christine discovered that Madonna songs had the same beat as the dinging sound, and so the two road trippers happily blasted Madonna the whole way home.
In her life and after her death, Christine taught me the importance of living life with joy and a healthy sense of humor. She also taught me the importance of surrounding myself with people who love and support me and who I can love and support in return. She taught me that as cliche as it might sound, life can be short, and the choices I make every day about how I spend my time and who I spend it with are important.
I know that I would not be where I am today if it weren't for Christine. The hours, days, weeks and months following her death taught me about the incredible support professionals can add to the grief and healing process, and pointed me towards my career in social work. Today I am fortunate to be able to provide support to others going through challenging times, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel Christine's presence in all that I do.
Next week we will share in a celebration of her life with family and friends. But tonight I light a candle and give thanks for Christine and the lasting impact of her short life.