Sixteen months ago, my friend Orion Strong was diagnosed with AML leukemia. Ten days days ago, he died.
The picture of Orion I forever hold in my mind is the hug he had for me every time he saw me, of him asking, “So how have you been? What’s been going on in your life?” with more sincerity than most adults afford one another on an average day.
His genuine care and interest in my well-being was something I have to say honestly caught me off guard. Who is this kid to care about what is happening in my personal world? But Orion was a different kid. Everyone who knew him knew this.
But even more, what I will carry with me is what Orion taught me about life. About how to live while dying. Orion was given a time limit that feels impossible to accept. But it is for what he showed me in the meantime that I am indescribably grateful.
He taught me that every day is an opportunity to stay open to the reality of the best possible outcome.
To breathe every breath fully and deeply and humbly
To be awake for each moment of my experience in this existence
To CELEBRATE every good thing and that there is always, always good,
To never let the chance to be kind to others or to ourselves pass by
To abandon fear that would rob me of today,
to forget what is not important,
to forgive generously,
to love recklessly,
to find the beauty in WHAT IS right here and right now on any given day
because there is always something beautiful happening.
Orion became a HERO not because of cancer but because not even cancer could stop him from fulfilling his dream. I can think of no greater gift Orion could have given the world. And I cannot think of a better tribute to Orion’s life than to live my life better and differently because I knew him.
This IS a love story. Love did win. Love won a thousand times over. The evidence is in the hundreds of faces who came from near and far for his memorial service, in the thousands of messages on Facebook from people all over the world who have been following his story and touched by his life, from the outpouring of love and support from his home community. That love is there every time I see Orion’s face. And it will continue in the profound ripple effect among all of the people who know and tell and remember his story. Orion’s story is one of love. And it is one that will not end.
Orion in Gas, Dust and Stars