finding life in a dark place

Lauren HillΒ 

Lauren Hill 

I was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH, and have lived in this amazing city for a major portion of my twenty-five years on Earth.  I am a massive traveler and have had the opportunity to venture abroad to see the Eiffel Tower and the incredible architecture and culture throughout the city of London.  I have walked the beaches of Poros, Greece and crossed bridges in Florence, Italy.  I've been truly blessed in my life, and I owe my parents the world for these journeys that have been such an important aspect of my growth as an individual.  That being said, I'm sure many of you folks have read about a certain person in the Cincinnati area by the name of Lauren Hill.  If not, let me briefly fill you in.  Lauren Hill was a freshman basketball player for Mount Saint Joseph University here in Cincinnati, and had been enjoying her happy and healthy life as a 19-year-old student athlete. However, during her senior season of high school basketball, Hill began feeling dizzy and fatigued during basketball practice.  Thinking she might just be out of shape, she brushed it off until her symptoms really began to worsen.  After a few days, Hill's balance had been completely thrown off, while her tongue and tasting sensations went completely numb.   Hill and her family decided to act, and it was then that she received the heartbreaking news that would change her story and legacy forever. At 18 years old, Lauren had been diagnosed with an inoperable form of brain cancer, specifically Difuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), and was informed that she only had a few months to live out the rest of her life.

So, I'll ask you to think about that statement for a second.  You're 18 years of age with the rest of your life ahead of you, and that dark, evil word is suddenly thrown into your everyday vocabulary.  Knowing my own ways and habits, I'm positive that word would eat at me while consuming my everyday thoughts and ideas.  How could it not, honestly?  Even though all of our lives are on a timeline, at least on this Earth, I cannot imagine being informed of when that timeline will come to an end.  From the onset of her diagnosis, Hill went into fight mode.  She questioned the disease, reached out for advice and realized how much her life had changed in such an incredibly quick turnaround.  At times, she was fearful and hopeless in her search for answers, and rightfully so.  Who wouldn't be?  Eventually, however, Hill understood her opportunity to become a fighting voice for cancer and for those affected by this heinous disease.  With life comes stress, and with happiness, comes sadness.  However, imagine being diagnosed with a disease that destroys the qualities that make you human?  With this comes more stress, more anxiety and the fact that hope can be so very difficult to grasp and maintain.

Back in November, Lauren Hill played in her first collegiate basketball game, after being diagnosed with brain cancer just  weeks earlier.  The NCAA moved the game up two weeks so that Hill could have the opportunity to play before taking her last breaths in her life.  Due to an incredible interest in her story and the fact that Lauren Hill would be playing despite her cancer diagnosis, the game was moved from Mount St. Joe's home arena seating 2,000 fans to Xavier University's Cintas Center, which seats over 10,000.  So, on November 11, 2014, the city of Cincinnati showed up to see Lauren Hill play basketball, a sport in which she loved with an undying amount of passion and heart.  Although she may have been dying on the inside, Lauren Hill stayed alive and voiced the phrase that humans can connect with on so many levels, "Never Give Up."  

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How many times throughout your life can you remember when you might not have given it your all?  I think we've all been there at some point, and that feeling seems to truly go against our DNA as human beings.  That feeling eats at you, and it's also when self-awareness comes in to kick us in the tail.  We weren't built to give up, and when I relate it to a 19-year-old playing through terminal brain cancer in front of 10,000 screaming fans, it's difficult to type this without my body filling with goosebumps.  However, what about those times when you didn't give up throughout your life?  How amazing did it feel?  Think about those moments every single day, and remember that your time here could end at any time.  How do you want to be remembered? Do you want your loved ones, friends, peers and co-workers to speak highly of you and your love, integrity and passion you showed everyday?  Take some time today and truly think about this because it is essential, and too often, we brush it by the wayside, thinking that tomorrow is guaranteed.  

Last week, I was scrolling through our Twitter feed at work searching for some great content to share with our audience.  I help run the Twitter page for Penn Station East Coast Subs out of Cincinnati, OH, and on this particular day, I wanted to connect our audience with Lauren's story.  On April 10, 2015, Lauren Hill took her last breaths before ascending into the heavens above.  Everyone has their views on life, death and happiness, and I can respect these varying opinions.  I really can.  However, watching someone like Lauren Hill speak about love, compassion and life, makes me think that her soul will live on forever.  On April 10th, Local 12 - WKRC TV centered a majority of their Twitter conversations around the celebration of Hill's life and even sent their audience to a live stream of her memorial service on that day.  They also provided a picture of Lauren's Life Lessons that she so gracefully shared with the world, and I want you to take a look at them below:

  1. Play BIG - it's not how big you are, but how big you play.
  2. Leave nothing unsaid to those you love.
  3. Find the light in every moment.
  4. Never give up!
  5. Find something to fight for.
  6. Chase your dreams and don't let anything hold you back from living your life.
  7. Live in the moment.
  8. Be selfless.
  9. Realize material items can never match the value of the time you have with the ones you love.
  10. Trust in God and that we are all here for a greater cause.
  11. Remember to laugh at yourself.
  12. Be yourself.

You know, I really think we were all placed here to do something extraordinary in our lives.  Whether that is creating a product that changes the world, coaching kids and helping guide their lives, teaching, building, writing, reading; whatever it may be, everyone is here for a greater purpose.  While taking the time to find this purpose, it takes ambition and the awareness that fear is just an illusion to really start finding your rhythm.  The chances that your parents met one another and had the opportunity to create you were not a coincidence.  You are important, you are special, and you do mean the world to so many people out there.  Lauren Hill realized this notion at a very young age and wanted everyone to know that life is meant to be special.  Time and love are all that we have, and as human beings, we should spend our time wisely and carry out acts of love and kindness each and every single day. Please don't ever forget that: I know Lauren would not approve.