Pursuing Faith

Haley Rue crowd surfing in Budapest during the summer of 2014.

DSC_0315Story bHaley Schlatter

I was five years old when I met my soul mate. From sharing animal crackers in pre-school to running for president and vice president of the senior class, we were in it together. But Haley Rue is not a lover, she is my kindred spirit. There is no string of words that could ever come close to illustrating my unconditional love for Haley. There is a childlike bliss that arises in the midst of your most intimate friendship.

Like Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw once said, “Maybe our girlfriends are our soul mates and guys are just people we have fun with.”

On July 19, 2014,  I woke up to an empty household. My parents were on vacation for the weekend and my brothers were both out of town. Around 10 am I received a call from my mother. With a steady voice she cut right to the chase. While traveling around Europe as a student writer, Haley slipped and fell during a hike and was caught underneath the vortex of a waterfall. She died just hours after we had exchanged laughs over how happy she was to finally be in Germany, away from the men and mistakes made in Vienna. She died from a simple mistake. A misstep. 

Until that moment, I had never experienced what it meant to truly weep. I fell to the ground and cried out in anguish to an empty household with a frantic mother on the line while my father desperately searched for someone to keep me company. As soon as my aunt got to my home she embraced me and asked me what had happened. The only words I could utter were: “we were supposed to do life together.”

We were supposed to do life together. This was simply the most devastating realization in the wake of Haley’s death. When a loved one passes away, we are overwhelmed with the realization that our most intimate relationships can be ripped from our hands at any moment. We are not promised a long and prosperous life, but we sure do like to assume we’ll all have one. 

When such a promising young person passes away, we find ourselves not only mourning for the loss of their current life, but the loss of their future. The graduations that will never be attended, the weddings that will never take place, the careers that will never be achieved. We mourn the little things, too. The three hour phone calls at 2 in the morning, the gossip about our ex-lovers, delighting in our hopes and dreams. 

There is a natural instinct to live in fear in the wake of tragedy. I was consumed by the fear that my loved ones or I would be next. Rather than live life to the fullest, the instinct is to draw back and live a life of reclusion. We are willing to sacrifice quality for time.

But what kind of a life is that?

Haley lead a life full of inhibition. She never feared the shadow of death. In fact, she lived out her every dream and ambition in spite of it. 

When the time came to apply to university, everyone knew that you are supposed to apply to a back up school in case you don’t get into the selective ones. But Haley decided to only apply to almost every Ivy League school in the nation. Her classmates, her teachers, and her friends doubted her. 

She was accepted to every single one.

She went on to attend Harvard University and certainly left her mark. She was one of two students selected to travel over the course of summer, writing about their experiences. Alone, she backpacked through the majority of Western Europe. She ate, she danced, she bonded with strangers, and most importantly, she lived.

We must learn from her example. Time is fleeting and nothing is guaranteed, but this should be our motivator, not our discourager. Haley fit a lifetime of experience into 19 years, more than most people will fit into a lifetime. 

In the midst of the most devastating tragedy I’ve experienced, I am choosing to live a life like that of my best friend. I will love fiercely and dance through the time I have left on this earth, following my dreams and fulfilling my purpose.

I am choosing to let my faith be greater than my fear.

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