We never know how long our lives will be. I’ve been pondering this since the brutal murders of 20 six- and seven-year-olds in Connecticut. And now last night with the news that one of my professors from grad school, Jake Adam York, just 40 years old, had died this past Sunday of a stroke. In perfect health. Just beginning to climb the pinnacle of his poetic expression, awarded a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship of $25,000 last month, getting published left and right. And he’s gone. Along with those 20 children. 

 

I don’t follow the news very closely because I don’t have cable TV, but I used to watch CNN, ABC News, and MSNBC news and rarely a TV show outside of that. Now I get my news late. It’s not so bad because I have more time to read, to write, to communicate on Facebook and through email. I received the news late about Jake.

 

I hadn’t read all Jake’s poetry collections, published since 2005, when I was taking his poetry class. And now I owe him that.

 

One of the little girls buried this week in Newtown was Jessica, 6 years old, and she was studying and reading about orca whales. I owe Jessica some research about orca whales.

 

What I owe myself is to live my life in the best way possible each day. To be grateful for every minute I spend on the planet. To live and realize my own passion for writing.

 

What is it you follow, what unsaid things are on your mind today? Today. Do it today. Say it today. And if you have lived a life according to your passion, pat yourself on the back and keep going.

 

I saw this quote recently at the beginning of Mary Karr’s second of three memoirs, the one called Cherry:

“Time’s march is a web of causes and effects, and asking for any gift of mercy, however tiny it might be, is to ask that a link be broken in that web of iron, ask that it be already broken. No one deserves such a miracle.” —Jorge Luis Borges, A Prayer

 Odd as it may sound, that gives me peace. We are not privy to the why of life. Only the what.

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