Most of the time, when a person passes away, they are well-eulogized. People talk about fond memories, all the best attributes of that person, and list off their achievements in this life. Sometimes, however, the person who has moved on hasn’t spent that much time on this planet. Their life, in our estimation, was cut too short, and we’re left to wonder what all they could’ve gone on to do, lamenting time lost.
My cousin, Whitney Harden, passed away yesterday at the tender age of 19. She could easily fall into the category I described above, but if you had known her you would have a hard time leaving her there, or lamenting anything about her.
She was sick from the time she was born, fighting a relentless auto-immune disease that sought to rob her of any kind of real life. For instance, she had to complete a lot of her education online, and through tutors, due to an inability to keep consistent attendance at school, and frequent hospital stays. It made spending time with friends hard, and for a fairly isolated life. She did meet her goal of graduating high school and walking with her class, but beyond that, and by the world’s standards, she didn’t have many achievements.
While the disease might’ve been tempted to think it was winning, I don’t think it counted on the warrior heart of its prey. I don’t think it realized what a formidable enemy it would find in her very best weapon:
Whitney was a person of light. She wielded kindness and selflessness like a sword that sliced through darkness and pain like butter. Even with her limited availability, her friendships were deep and steadfast, and she offered an understanding ear to other patients, adding a boost of positivity in an otherwise often negative and hopeless environment. Her vast medical community found not one untouched by her unflagging spirit of hope, as evidenced by the surprise birthday parade of her doctors and nurses, past and present, on her hospital-bound 19th birthday. They came from all over, donning hats, and carrying cake and balloons, to honor their incredible patient.
I think that living in the shadow of death for the entirety of her life served not to make her cower in an ultimate resignation, but stand up in determination to make the very best use of her time. She had little use for pettiness, complaints, or narcissism. She always seemed to know what was really important with a maturity well beyond her years.
I think she would want you to remember that you, too, live in the shadow of death. We all do, although we tend to live with an arrogance that we have all the time in the world because we don’t have a life-hungry reminder breathing down our necks. My darling cousin would remind you that there is no place for arrogance in this life. She would want you to make much of every day, and, if you’ve been given the incredibly generous gift of many years, tell you that a litany of achievements at the end of them doesn’t necessarily equate to a life well-lived. Unless, of course, they include kindness, selflessness and hope.
Unless they include JOY.
Dance, my darling girl. Sing. Run. Breathe DEEP the clear, perfect air of heaven. You have finished so very well.
September 12, 1996 – November 15, 2015
Melinda, this is truly beautiful!!! Thank you for writing this!!!!
This is such a beautiful and moving tribute to a darling little angel! Her face radiates that light you speak of. Thank you for opening my eyes a little more and reminding me to appreciate every minute of life—and, so far, I have had a very long one with a world of blessings.
She will truly soar with the Angels in Heaven now!
A beautiful remembrance for Whitney. A reminder for all of us on what really matters in our lives.
Few can captivate the words that express the beauty, light and love of a soul like Whitney. You did, and ever so eloquently. I barely knew her, but I will never forget her. We played as kids during family reunions. She had the best collection of dress up clothes ever, and she was beautiful, bright eyed and yes, joyfull. We laughed and giggled and didn’t worry about the struggles of life. Her smile was contagious. I think about the innocence of child hood, a dreamy mystical place where reality doesn’t exist and all you care about is ice cream and blanket forts. That’s the world I knew Whitney in, and she was fearless. I had no idea how sick she was untill my parents (Storm and Dee Dee) explained it to me. I can’t begin to describe how much my heart throbs right now, but then at the same time sings for her in celebration of her life. I love how you wrote that she was determined to make the best of her time on this earth, though limited she lived it to the full, and as a reminder from her to live our lives the same.
Amazing, thank you for writing this 🙂 prayers sent to the good Lord above and to all family and friends of precious Whitney
I’m proof that she is still touching, inspiring & motivating us to be more and do better here, even after she’s “gone to that room just right over there” I️ wish I️ had the opportunity to have known her. Something tells me that I’ll have her near me for a long time. Thank you for sharing her with me.