For Maddie Elliott

Yesterday I wrote a blog post on the fragility of our human lives, the time limits on all of us that we simply cannot see. I know that I wrote it yesterday, yet I had no idea I was actually writing about one of the most beautiful souls kristina-m-m-158842I have ever known. I was yet to realize a wonderful friend and kind heart had just been lost.

This is for Madeline Elliott.

Though I knew her through classes and crossed paths throughout the years, even I could tell that Maddie was truly one of a kind. She was the kind of girl who could bring a smile to anyone’s face with one of the most infectious laughs I have ever heard. Every time I talked to her, whether it was about something important or simply trivial, we always ended up talking for so much longer than we had planned because she was just that kind of personshe could connect with anyone.

From the moment I met her I knew one thing: this girl is going to touch so many lives. And she has. Because it isn’t about how long you live, but truly how you live. She did it beautifully. From someone who keeps their phone password as her birthday and the best friends whose lives were changed with her in it, to the strangers she passed on the street with a simple smile to lighten their day and the people who knew her, adored her, and she didn’t even know… This girl was incredible. Her presence was a light in so many peoples lives, including mine, and when I said in my post yesterday to tell people you love them, I meant it. Because things like this happen, we lose people, and loved ones are gone before they had a chance to make this life their own. But I know that Maddie did, she lived a beautiful life of faith, impacting so many people with who she was. Her loss is a great one, her love was infectious, and her memory will last forever in each one of us.


I wrote this for you Maddie.

I live for the strangers who smile at me as they pass by and those who always remind me that they care.

I live for the “have a good night”‘s from the elderly because they’ve seen enough of bad ones, they know life can be unfair.

I live for the people who know how to laugh, straight from the belly with their heads tipped back in abandon.sabine-van-straaten-280388

And I live for the people who have changed my life, and they never even knew how many pieces of me came from them.

There’s something about free spirits, the ones who’s hearts beat and it feels like the world is beating along;

Every breath they take, the wind blows a little longer. Every connection they make, their life grows a little stronger.

There is warmth in their smile, their hope, their being— that irreplaceable kind of energy that makes the world keep moving

and time keep changing, as the world around us moves, these are the kind of people who help us to get up and move along too.

But sometimes we have to slow down, we lose something big, someone important, and we forget about the moving,

the loving, the changing, the hoping… We might forget about the living to mourn those who can no longer do so.

So what do you do when the one who embodied the idea of life with their own, with their living and loving and hoping;

aaron-burden-195608The idea of making every breath one of beauty, of light, of changing the world by just being part of it.

What do you do when they’re gone?

You stop, take a moment, maybe two— take as many as you need— and you hold on to the blessing it is to know someone like that.

Take a breath, take a few, and remember what it means to tell someone those three little words, “I love you.”

Remember their heart that beat for the world to beat with them, remember the smiles they offered, the hope that they held.

Remember the moments they changed your life, the laughs they abandoned themselves to, the memories they made.

You hold on to the love they left behind for you.

And you spread that love, that hope, that faith; you spread it until there is no place in this world left untouched.

Make the laughter they held the healing you feel as time jerry-kiesewetter-189034goes on and the wounds of loss begin to close.

Say what you mean, those three little words, as many times as it takes for someone else to hear your voice.

And be there, in this world, be present in the lives of those you love. Because we never know how much time any of us have

to leave something good behind while we can.


My prayers go out to her family and her friends, to all those who knew Maddie, for my heart is with you. If anyone would like to support them in this time, here is the link to the gofundme page for Madeline.

In the words of Helen Keller,

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart.”

Expectation vs. Reality

What did I put in my empty bag?

My dad used to do this thing with my siblings and I called What did we put in our empty bags; it was a metaphor. The bag represented our knowledge from the day, what we learned— we were supposed to empty it before going to school every ihor-malytskyi-218817day so we could go to class with an empty bag and fill it up with everything we learned. Cheesy, I know. But considering I still remember all of this and that Nick and still I say it to our friends sometimes, it was definitely effective.

So what did I put in my empty bag this week?

This week I have gotten a firsthand lesson on the idea of ignorance and what it’s true definition is: lack of knowledge or information. To be ignorant of something or to call someone out as such is not an insult, but simply a statement to show someone that they do not have all the facts. As a nineteen year old college student, I am ignorant of a lot of things, some of which I am not even conscious of. That doesn’t mean I’m not learning.

If someone were to ask me five years ago where I thought I would be in life, my guess would have come nowhere close to where I am right now. I probably would have said that I would be studying or sitting in class at Stanford University as some kind of pre-med major. I probably would have also said that I would be on the track team, running and jumping as a student athlete. And hey, I thought I would be 5’10 by now. There were so many aspects of this life that I didn’t understand, far too much to be ignorant of for me to have known where my life would take me. I didn’t know enough. I couldn’t have.

I couldn’t have known that my high school experience would so largely influence where I applied to college. I couldn’t have seen that I would decide on switching into a major to follow my passion instead of my obligations. matteo-catanese-401213 (1)And I wouldn’t have believed that I would be rejected by a school, only to be accepted off an appeal to now attend Cal Poly with Nick for the next three years.

They say knowledge is power— I don’t think this is something you can argue against.

According to Business Insider, at nineteen years old I have lived through the last 4 out of 5 “deadliest mass shootings in modern US history”. All occurring in the past 6 years. I’m not here to talk about the politics of it, the devastation or the unfortunate lack of change despite the increasing number of deaths and those affected.

I’m here to talk about ignorance, about learning instead of simply knowing.

I’m here to talk about Expectation vs. Reality.

You see, I have been raised on the idea of hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst. This applies to taking midterms I’m not completely ready for, long drives that might necessitate a blanket or a jacket, and even job interviews that always seem to be a toss up for me. Throughout elementary school to high school, I was privileged enough to grow up in a place where I wasn’t constantly thinking about my surroundings; who was around me, if I was in a place where I had to filter myself from risk of harm, or the possibility of racial slurs being thrown at me as I walked by. That last one only happened a few times.

But in hoping for the best, I just never expected to live in a world where people could be afraid to go to concerts, to diners, to school. I never expected that sabine-van-straaten-280388the largest fear some of us held would have to do with the capabilities of one another.

Unfortunately, that is the reality we are all at right now. We are having to adjust to the way the world is changing around us as the people in it change too. Whether you swing left or right, you’re heterosexual or not, everyone is having to make changes. Sometimes I think people forget about the morality of this life and get too caught up in what they expected to be happening or where they’re hoping they would be.

You can’t always see a hurricane coming, nor can you ever know for sure how things are going to turn out.

This week I am reminded of a concept that ties us all together— we are all human beings. If there is one thing I used to be ignorant of, stereotypical teenage mindset or not, it was the fragility of my own life.

Because in my empty bag this week, I hold all the chemistry formulas and Iliad lessons, but on top of all that I hold my life: The idea that it can be easy to lose. I used to make five year plans, ten year hopes, and imaginative ideas of what my high school reunions might be like. I used to make promises of seeing people without ever following through, or putting off good plans for tomorrow, staying in to watch Netflix instead. But the thing is, in that bag is my life. The only one I am going to get. And while I need to make plans for a successful future where I don’t move back in with my parents and have no job, I also need to be aware of the situation we are all living in.jerry-kiesewetter-189034.jpg

We only get one life to live. In the past week alone, far too many people lost their own. The reality is that we don’t know how long this will last for us, how much time we have. The most any of us can do is say “I love you” while we can, hold onto every moment we get, and make sure that when we contribute a verse to the world, we leave behind something good. Something worth it. Something people can fill their bags with today.

I know what I put in mine.