Remember always that life itself is a gift

Published 9:32 am Thursday, January 21, 2016

Oh, the year is so young. We are only 21 days in, yet I feel like there has been so much loss and tragedy in the lives of those I know.

In the last few weeks, I’ve received news many times of those I know losing loved ones, losing those I have cared for and loss of a few icons in the world.

Last week, I was in Oregon for five days, learning from some of the most well-respected photographers in the wedding industry.

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My first night, I listened to photographer Jeff Newsom give a talk on his journey through life. He has experienced so many struggles in his life, yet he has overcome it all and has an amazing outlook on life.

Jeff quoted Richard Dawkins in his talk — which really hit home to me with all this news I had started to receive. The quote was as follows:

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?”

Wow, what a quote. It made me really think about life, and all the things we are so lucky to have in our time here on earth. Life itself is a gift, and we could have never been born in the first place.

In my short 20 years of life so far, I’ve experienced the death of my mom, both sets of grandparents, extended family members, mentors, pets and friends. Every time I lose someone in my life, I go through a period of sadness, which is expected. But then, I remember all the great things each of those people had to offer in this world, and that takes some of the pain away. I am so lucky to have been brought into this world, and lucky that they, too, were brought into this world and were a part of my life.

My heart aches for every single person who is grieving over a loss right now. I pray that they find comfort, and eventually that will come. I hope this column helps those to remember how lucky it is to live, and how lucky it is to die, even though it might not make sense at the time, because to die is to mean you have lived and touched the lives of others.


Erin Murtaugh is an undergraduate at Bemidji State University studying elementary education. She can be reached at