Earlier this week in Fennville, MI, amazing triumph was followed swiftly by crushing tragedy. Sixteen-year-old Wes Leonard was celebrating a 20-0 season with his basketball teammates, seconds after scoring the game-winning shot in overtime, when the high school junior collapsed on the court as the crowd began reveling in the team's victory.
A little more than an hour later, Wes Leonard died at a nearby hospital. Ottawa County forensic pathologist Dr. David Start said that Leonard died of cardiac arrest brought on by dilated cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart.
Leonard was a star player and had scored more than 1,000 points in his high school career, according to local news reports. Judging from his expression in the picture above, taken shortly before his collapse, it is clear that, however tragic the circumstances, he died doing something he truly loved.
The idea of living like each day as your last is the stuff of country songs, motivational speeches and self-help books. The incredible Patti Digh, one of my personal heroes, helps people realize how they can bring the passion and simplicity back to their lives, with both her 37days blog and one of her wonderful books in particular, the inspirational Life is a Verb. Although the idea of living life to its fullest each day may seem clichèd, the lesson is tremendously valuable, no matter where you are in your life span.
All too often we get caught up in the chaos, hurts and frustration of our daily lives. It seems far too difficult to embrace how precious life truly is. I know I'm certainly guilty of that.
Reading about a life like Wes Leonard's makes me realize how much more I need to concentrate on doing the things about which I'm passionate, surrounded as much as possible by people I enjoy. Not sweating the small stuff? Easier said than done, of course, but it must be done, not said.
A seismic shift in who I am isn't realistic for me, but gradual change is possible and achievable.
Start today. I will, which is why I'm here, sharing my thoughts with you.