Some souls learn life#039;s lessons quickly

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 30, 2002

It was a gray rainy Wednesday morning when I read the newspaper story about the death of 18-year-old Ashley Williams. I didn't know her nor do I know her family. Still, I felt such great sadness reading about the loss of someone so young.

The comments from those who knew her introduced me to a young woman whom I probably would have enjoyed knowing. From their descriptions, she sounded like a happy person, like someone who would be a good friend.

The end of a life is much harder to comprehend when it comes so suddenly and at such a young age. It brings home the realization that our lives comes with no guarantee of how long they will last. The older I get the more I understand that this is true.

When I hear about the loss of a person just starting on life's journey, it always makes me wonder about the grand scheme of things, the big picture we can't see while we are living in the middle of it.

I certainly don't have answers to the big questions, like why death steals a life that has hardly begun, but I developed an explanation that I hold to, one that helps me make sense of things that make no sense.

It may not fit for anyone else, but it is how I like to think things work.

Imagine for a moment that we are here in this world to learn lessons, to have experiences that enrich our souls, to touch lives and to be touched by lives.

Some of us take learning and growing slowly. We move through the years picking up what we need to know along the way.

Others are more anxious to expand their spirits, to learn their lessons quickly so they can move on to a higher place and use what they learned to help others in even greater ways.

These souls seem to reach out to everyone they meet. They are people who stay with you. You remember the way they took time to say a kind word or to give you a smile when you needed it. They light up a room and are unforgettable.

These are the accelerated learners who walk among us, and when they depart they leave us wondering why they left so soon.

I thought about this as the rain pounded on my window and I thought about the Williams family. I have not lost a child after 18 years of having her with me. I cannot know firsthand how deep a hurt comes with such a loss. So saying to this family, "I know how you feel," would not be right or true.

I do not know the depth of your grief, but I do know the life of Ashley Williams left its imprint on many people.

That was obvious in the comments of those who knew her. She did not leave this world without making a mark on it. Just hearing about her touched me, inspired me on this stormy Wednesday to write these words that others will read.

Her passing reminded me of some important truths – life is fragile; it is a gift, and every day is an opportunity to become a better person. We do not need to take that fore granted nor miss a chance to express love in the world.

That, I think, is the lesson Ashley is teaching us from that higher place she now occupies.