Over the summer it was my unfortunate duty to attend the funeral of Smilla, a student of mine. She had died suddenly, a heart attack while she was swimming on holiday. She had no previous history of heart problems and had been active in all kinds of sporting activities whilst studying in London with us. Bright, funny and curious, she spoke three languages fluently and possessed a startling intellect. At the time of her death she was thirteen.
At the funeral in Paris the priest did his best to comfort the hundreds of disbelieving mourners assembled in the church. An absurd death, he called it, even a cruel death. In his words, there was a constant reassurance that she was now in a better place.
To my mind, the father summed it up better when invited to the pulpit to speak. Quoting a little known author whose name has now escaped me, he read, “The shortest lives are not necessarily the least lived”.
He was completely right. Although her death was patently unfair, even though she deserved the chance to become everything she had promised to be, she could never have been accused of failing to live her life to the full. Active, friendly, open and always seeking to better her knowledge, she lived a life in thirteen years that many don’t lead in a full lifetime.
We never know how much time we have, nor can we say with scientific exactness whether this is it or if we continue on after death. What Smilla’s tragic death brought home to me was just how fragile our own mortality really is. The life we get is too precious to be wasted – each day is another opportunity.
I’m not referring to the hedonistic idea of YOLO – instead the latin phrase carpe diem, seizing the day and making something special of our time. As a student, I am all to aware how easy it is to sack off revising for an exam or to choose not to join that society you’ve always been interested in, yet each is a chance to make something of ourselves that many people never get. It would a travesty to waste that opportunity.