Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday's got heart

Hello, girls, it’s Monday, and I’m in Montana! I say this because that puts me in Mountain Time. I am staying honest as to my location. :)

So, my cousin’s wedding was beautiful and a blast, and I’ve seen a lot of awesome and awe-inspiring sights and countryside, but I’ll likely talk about all that next week, so I shan’t say any more about it. Onto more important matters.

Harry Potter. I saw it, though (for the first time ever) unfortunately not at midnight on the 15th *shakes fist at unfortunate circumstances* But I did see it on the 15th, and I really enjoyed it. I think it’s one of the best that they’ve made, and while I had some minor issues with some minor points, I felt that it was very strong overall. I sobbed more than once, and I can’t wait to see it again. Neville is awesome, and I’m totally leaving my boyfriend for him (my boyfriend knows and accepts this).

But as this is NOT Harry Potter week, I will not dwell on the movie, but move on to more serious topics.

It’s interesting for me that Casey chose this topic this week, as it touches on something I was going to talk about when I hit Christina’s challenge week. I certainly don’t mind talking about it now, though it won’t be near as poetic and well thought out as it might otherwise have been.

We’re getting to a pretty nostalgic time of year for me, enhanced by the fact that I just spent a week with my extended family. See, July 28th is coming up right around the corner, and sixteen years ago on July 28th, my cousin Ethan was born. Six months later, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He wasn’t expected to live more than a few months. He lived for ten years. Whenever my family gets together as the end of July approaches, our thoughts will invariably turn to Ethan. And when I’m asked to remember something that was a huge part of my life that is no longer present, it is Ethan that I think of immediately.

I could tell you he was an extraordinary kid. I could tell you that he was and is an inspiration to everyone who knew him. I could tell you that he lived his life to the fullest, every moment of it. And all of those things would be true. But the more I’ve been researching charities (spoiler warning for the kind of charity I’ll be supporting?), the more I’ve noticed that these are the things that always get said about kids who die young. Not just kids who die from cancer, but any child who dies before his or her time. And this started me thinking . . . is it the cancer that makes the kids this way? I might be inclined to answer yes, in a way, if not for those others. The sudden deaths. The ones who die without warning and still have such attributes assigned to them.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t deny that these things are true. I believe fully that every child described as living every moment of his or her life to the fullest is described accurately. But I also think this is something true of every child who lives.

Kids are curious. Kids are in love with life. Kids live. But when kids die young, we as adults recognize our own mortality, and so it’s this love of life that sticks out. It’s the love of life that we remember.

I’m not expressing this well because my clock’s counting out the time til midnight and I’m in a room with my family and so can’t think out loud and I can’t get up and walk out my thoughts. I think what I’m trying to say is this: the tragedy of a short life reminds us all how precious life is. And when we reflect on that, we attribute our awareness of life to the life that was lived.

My cousin Ethan loved life, and lived every minute of it to the fullest. But so does my cousin Ben. And my little brother. And the kids I direct in shows. The kids themselves are the miracle. The goal for adults is to remember to live our lives that way at all times, not just when a life is cut short. That’s what Ethan and all my other cousins have taught me.

Around this time of year, I start reflecting on the life that was lived and the person who lived it. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to do that here this year.

Ethan Lillard liked to sing.

He loved to laugh and make others laugh.

His favorite card game was UNO.

Carrie, the cousin who just got married, was his favorite cousin.

The kid had a whole lot of snark, especially for a six, eight, ten-year-old.

He could throw a mean temper tantrum about whether or not it was time to go to bed.

He liked to pull my hair.

He constantly exceeded expectations.

He hugged like he meant it – because he did.

He inspired the jumpstart in my writing.

He was incredibly stubborn.

Showtunes were his favorite – and he knew a ton of them by heart.

He was a fighter.

He frequently beat me at UNO – and I sure as hell didn’t let him win!

He loved chocolate.

While his parents were having to break to all the family in April of 2005 that his tumors were spreading and not responding to any available treatments, he was singing “You Gotta Have Heart” in the background and making up his own words.

The last time I saw him was at Christmas 2004, almost ten months before he died. I didn’t see him laid out in his coffin. I didn’t want to. I wanted my last memory of him to be the smiling, singing, laughing boy I’d loved so well. And it is. But I enjoy remembering everything else – that he wasn’t perfect. That he had a stubborn streak a mile wide. That he could, occasionally, get on my nerves. Those memories make him human, and I am grateful for that.

This post is in memory of him. Not quite on the same level as Harry Potter, I guess, but this time of year, there really isn’t much else for me to talk about. I’ll leave you with a photo, and the lyrics to his favorite song. My cousin played this as the prelude to her wedding, in honor of Ethan. It’s from a musical about baseball, but that hardly matters.

“Gotta Have Heart” from Damn Yankees

You've gotta have heart
All you really need is heart
When the odds are sayin' you'll never win
That's when the grin should start

You've gotta have hope
Mustn't sit around and mope
Nothin's half as bad as it may appear
Wait'll next year and hope

When your luck is battin' zero
Get your chin up off the floor
Mister you can be a hero
You can open any door, there's nothin' to it but to do it

You've gotta have heart
Miles 'n miles n' miles of heart
Oh, it's fine to be a genius of course
But keep that old horse
Before the cart
First you've gotta have heart

A great slugger we haven't got

A great pitcher we haven't got

A great ball club we haven't got

What've we got?

We've got heart
All you really need is heart
When the odds are sayin' you'll never win
That's when the grin should start

We've got hope
We don't sit around and mope
Not a solitary sob do wwe heave
Mister, 'cause we've got hope

We're so happy that we're laugh'
That's the hearty thing to do
‘Cause we know our ship will come in
So it's ten years overdue

We've got heart
Miles 'n miles 'n miles o' heart
Oh, it's fine to be a genius of course
But keep that old horse before the cart

So what the hecks the use of cryin'?
Why should we curse?
We've gotta get better, 'cause we can't get worse!
And to add to it, we've got heart.

Ethan Robert Lillard
July 28, 1995 - September 28, 2005

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