The entire drive I stopped my mind from conjuring thoughts that brought tears to my eyes. I needed to hold it together yet the more I pushed my emotions down, the more they rebelled, bubbling up to the surface.

Hospice. The last time someone I knew was in Hospice, she passed before I could get to her, hold her hand, and tell her much I loved her. She was my everything, my grandmother.

I arrived and walked down the quiet halls carrying the hope that some people leave hospice and return home. Maybe I wouldn’t have to say goodbye.

Goodbye. The thread that ties us all together. Many of us know the pain of never again. Some learn it too soon.

A week later I drove with my son and two friends to her celebration of life service. My mind raced from thoughts of her husband and two young sons to thoughts of her mother sitting in the hospice room rubbing her daughter’s arm.  Breathe.

The school auditorium was packed with people who had been touched by Maiya’s life.

Memories. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she walked through the hallways helping, organizing, laughing, everyone knew Maiya. Everyone knew Maiya’s heart.

Holding back the tears, I turned to my friend. “I can’t watch the slide show; it’s too sad.” My friend reminded me it was a celebration of LIFE! “When I go you better be at a bar somewhere toasting my life.” Reality. We never know when we’ll have to say goodbye. Even in death, Maiya reminded us all to live.

Teens to young adults, students from years passed, played the steel drums. How many times had I seen Maiya in the band room making sure kids had what they needed?

But the words of one woman hit home in a letter she wrote to her daughter in law when she first found out Maiya had cancer. “I was afraid to love you too much because the divorce rate is 60%.” The honesty in those words cut straight to my heart. Being afraid to love because one day we will lose what we love. The fear of goodbye outweighing the freedom and greatness of love. It wasn’t until Maiya’s mother-in-law knew she’d lose her daughter that she chose to love her with her full heart. In that moment I knew I was the same. I needed to love more and fear less.

Maiya loved with all her heart.  She had less time here than anyone ever would’ve imagined, but in that time she taught us to see the need in our community, care, and do something to help. That lesson was a light within Maiya. Now it’s been passed on to all who knew her. Even though we said goodbye Maiya’s light will continue to shine.


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