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Friday, January 12, 2018

A Wild and Precious Life: Kate Rhoades


It's January 12th.

This is a day stuck in the middle of January that for most of my life was just an ordinary day. January is filled with lots of meaningful days for me. Our wedding anniversary. Our second son's birthday. My sister's birthday. My birthday.

January 12th? For almost 47 of my years on Earth, this date conjured up no special image, no unique emotion, no specific prayer. And even still, the January 12th square on my calendar this year looks pretty typical. An orthodontist appointment. An eye doctor appointment. A basketball game.

Except for one specific reminder to myself written out in purple pen. A little girl's name. A heart-shaped scribble.


January 12th is different now.

Two years ago on January 12th Kate Rhoades died of cancer at the age of four. Two days from now I will presumably - because it is so very obviously not a guarantee - turn 49 years old, meaning I will have been given 45 more years than Kate. 16,425 more days.

Not one bit of that makes a lick of sense to me.

I believe I met Kate and her family only once before she died. Both her mama and her grandma have become friends since that day, but my heartbreak over this doesn't deserve any attention today. While my thoughts are full of her family, I won't pretend that any grief I feel is worthy of your sympathy. I shed a lot of tears this morning over this little girl and for this family, but they are but a drop in a vast, deep ocean of tears that have been and will be shed by those who knew her well.

You see, I have the great luxury of going through my January 12th making my appointments, eating my lunch, answering an email, being annoyed at traffic, lamenting the pain of my pulled hamstring, and chuckling at a funny tweet. I can just walk on through it, all with the assumption that I'll be able to celebrate my birthday this weekend with my husband and my friends and my children.

I mean, I could just treat it as an ordinary day.

But I hope that because of that little heart and those four letters scrawled in purple pen on my calendar I will do all those things a little bit differently today. I hope that January 12th will be a day when I am fully present, fully kind, fully grateful and fully aware that no day, not a single one of the 365 laid out in my new planner, is "just a day".

Today, on January 12th, some things might go wrong. Someone is going to make you angry. Something will disappoint you. Someone will cut you off in traffic. Something in the news will cause you despair. Some task will seem too hard. Something will seem unjust. Someone will hurt your feelings. Something will seem tedious and boring and ordinary.

I'm not suggesting that any of those things aren't worthy of all the feelings they will conjure up in you, but I'm suggesting that you try really hard today, on January 12th, to respond differently.

Might you give grace? Might you forgive? Might you hold your tongue? Might you work harder or on the contrary, give yourself a break? Might you defiantly find a measure of hope in a situation that seems hopeless? Might you be light in a place that is dark? Might you just utter one humble prayer of gratitude as you walk through this day?

Kate's precious little feet walked this Earth for less than five years. And in every picture or video I've seen of her, I am assured that she found the extraordinary in every, single, ordinary day.

What does this day mean for you? Does it hold weight? Good or bad? Don't let it be just a day. Whatever you're doing, wherever you go - whether in your home or in your office or in your school or at Starbucks - decide to give it weight and meaning and purpose. Find the blessing in the burden today and then for the rest of this new year, ponder Mary Oliver's famous question:

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


What a wild and precious life you had, sweet Kate. It's brevity and the stories I have witnessed of your courage, your infectious giggle and the way you continue to show up in the most beautiful ways for your family will remain in me forever, teaching me what is most important today and every day forward. No day is an ordinary day. Every day can be beautiful or tragic or both. But all of them are extraordinary.

God be near you, Lindsay, Michael and Cheryl.

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