A letter to my daughter on the sudden, tragic passing of her young friend

rose with dew
Photo by me

I wrote this letter to my daughter this past week when a friend of hers died after being struck by a bus. She was only 23 years old. As I wrote it, I realized that I needed to listen to the words, myself. I have not achieved much, by society’s standards. I don’t have money. I don’t have fame. I didn’t graduate from fancy schools. I don’t even own a car. My job is ordinary, at best. I’m “just a woman,” with not much in the way of grand achievements to show for my life. But perhaps being who I am — someone who is honest, caring and hard-working, who tries her best to be a good mother, a good friend, and a kind wife, among other things — well, maybe that is enough. I don’t know if I will die today or 20 years from now. Whatever I’ve achieved as a human being will have to come from who I am, not what I’ve done.

Dear Daughter,

I know there is nothing I can say to make this time any easier for you. She was a wonderful friend, someone you had hoped would be part of your life for a long time. She still will be, just not in the way that she should have been.

Society places a lot of importance on what we do with our lives. We’re always being asked the question, “What have you achieved?”

You’ve written some wonderful things about her on Facebook. And everything has shown me that what we “do” with our lives is, in the end, unimportant. The world can become a better place not because of what people do, but because of who they are. Kindness, goodness, morality: All of these qualities can be reflected in someone’s actions, of course. But even more significantly, these qualities will become manifest in the people who know that person who embodies them.

So you will take her into your heart and learn from her. The qualities you admired in her will be qualities you can emulate and then share with others. Just like the tiny pebble that can cause a ripple across a lake — or even an ocean — ¬†she will continue to influence the people who knew her, and all those who come in contact with them.

We all pass away from this earth. But we can pass on so much to those we leave behind if we focus on being, not just doing. What gives me joy, even in this dark time, is realizing that she already knew this, and you do, too. Your life is proof of it. She saw that, too, and it’s why she loved you.

I love you,