A couple of friends and I were sitting around my living room when we heard the news from Lafayette, less than three hours away from my home. Within seconds, we were on our phones, checking social media for the latest updates. My two friends were from south Louisiana, and I had several colleagues who live and work in Lafayette.
One of my fellow professors from Lafayette posted an update on Facebook that summed all our fears up perfectly: “Huge moments of relief every time someone posts that they weren’t at the movies and are OK.”
Every time I saw an update from someone I knew in Lafayette, I felt relief – but also deep sympathy, because some families did not get reunited that night.
My heart aches for the victims and their families. One of them, Jillian Johnson, was a mother, a wife, and a businesswoman. She was creative, selling locally made items and engaging in civic life.
Her obituary said she was a “model of a life well lived.” What a beautiful statement to echo, to aspire, to remember.
A life well lived takes various forms for individuals. For Jillian, she was a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. She managed bands, was a civic advocate, and was involved in a neighborhood improvement group, TownFolk, and the Acadiana Food Circle.
Lafayette victim Mayci Breaux was said to be beautiful inside and out. She was a college student, only 21, and had started radiology training at Lafayette General. She had gone to the theater that night with her boyfriend, who was shot but survived. He was released from the hospital in time for her funeral. He, like so many other family members and friends, said how much she would be missed.
Mayci was joyful. Mayci was devout. Mayci is missed.
Jillian was a model of a life well lived. Mayci was beautiful inside and out.
In tragedies, we often reflect on our own lives and the mortality of our own beings. I’ve been to several funerals that echo the sentiment of living life now. Be present and enjoy life. Live life to the fullest.
I can’t say that I argue with that. Every day, I strive hard – probably too hard – to make the most of every moment. I do so with such intensity on some days that I think I miss the point. The enjoyment becomes a hassle because everything isn’t picture perfect. My child doesn’t want to go to the library today. Or maybe our favorite sweet shop is closed. Or I didn’t get any sleep during the night, and all I want to do is lay on the couch and watch TV.
I think a life well lived is more than plans and adventures, though. A life well lived is full of community. When I picture life, I picture it with people – and I’m quite an introverted individual. Coffee with my husband. Play dates with my daughter’s baby friends. Girls’ nights with my ladies. Church gatherings for worship. Even work brings community.
Jillian and Mayci were loved and are deeply, deeply missed. They were active in their communities.
If we want a life well lived, if we want to be beautiful inside and out, we need community – not simply to be remembered by, but to live fully.
Be active. Be bold. Be willing to open up your house, your heart, and your hands. One of the great things about fitness is the community it invites into your life. There are races to raise money, such as the St. Jude half marathon and the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk. When you exercise with a group or even a friend or two, you become closer with those individuals. Even if you’re like my husband and enjoy running solo, running opens up a whole new community of individuals you never knew. You start talking to people about races, about shoes, about favorite routes.
Connecting with people helps us live. It helps us thrive.
We honor Jillian and Mayci because they thrived. They are remembered for loving others, for being involved, for embracing their community.
They were loved because they lived well.
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