In this first-place essay in the 2016 Richard H. Cracroft Personal Essay Contest, Wendy M Payne explores the meaning of life through the lens of three friends and her mother, who all experience life very differently. The first is Terri, who lives only on a biological level because of a brain aneurism. The second is Randy, who lives at all levels except physical. He is a quadriplegic who runs an insurance business with his wife. The third is Deanne, who is dying of cancer. The final life is that of Payne’s mother, Barbara, who, at ninety, still seems to be the same person she was as a college student, living life to the fullest.
Emily Dickinson wrote, “To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.” Payne concludes, “Perhaps this very miracle, the one we speak of so casually and often, is the reason Terri and Randy and Deanne stay here. Stay in their bodies that seem so completely useless to them now. They are still able to view life as so startling and dear that they have no time for anything else but to live it.”