A Life Well Lived

by Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

I went to a funeral for a 20-year-old young woman named Jenny recently. She was the daughter of two of our best friends, Mike and Lisa who we have known for about 25 years. My wife and Lisa were pregnant together and our daughter was born two months before Jenny. Then our sons were born one month apart a couple years later. So we have lived a lot of life with our friends Mike and Lisa.

Jenny was born with a diaphragmatic hernia and had probably 50 surgeries during her short 20 years of life. Although she had significant medical issues and had to rely on oxygen most of her life she was a determined and amazing young lady.

Although we have known Mike and Lisa for 25 years I still learned so much about Jenny from the many people who got up and spoke about her many accomplishments from working at Chick-fil-A to attending college at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Jenny had a 4.0 GPA and was in the process of working with Florida Southern and Arnold Palmer Hospital to create a new degree major called a Child Life Specialist.

The church was packed with people who Jenny had positively impacted during her life and there were a flood of tears shed but also a lot of appreciation for all of her accomplishments and the lives she’d touched. She helped families and other young lives through some very similar difficult medical paths that she had taken.

For someone who had gone through so much she had an enduring spirit, a quick wit and a precocious and determined personality. She touched a lot of people in very positive ways despite her circumstances. In short, she left a legacy that lives on.

I hope many who read this will pause to consider that perhaps our circumstances are really not that hard and just maybe we can rise above to see how much we have to appreciate and how great an impact we can have on the lives of others, just like Jenny did.


Fighting for the Beautiful View

This past Summer I enjoyed a great reminder of the importance of struggling through difficult times toward the blessing on the other side. This reminder came while my wife and I were whitewater rafting in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

If you’ve ever been rafting, you know that the common rafting trip involves a lot of time coasting downriver, punctuated by a few episodes of furious paddling, leaning, and trying hard to stay in the boat! This works great because it allows you feel like a bit of a daredevil while enjoying breathtaking natural beauty from a unique perspective!

As we approached a sharp bend in the Arkansas River, high in the Colorado Rockies, the rapids began to pick up.

Our guide told our four-person crew that we had an intense stretch of river coming, so we anchored ourselves and got ready to paddle. For maybe 25-30 seconds we paddled hard, leaning and pulling our way through the rapids and around the river’s turn.

The waters calmed and we were able to catch our breath and relax. Once things had settled, our guide got everyone’s attention and told us to look behind us. What we saw was amazing—an unobstructed, glorious view of a 14,000 foot peak that looked as if it rose directly out of the river.

That evening when I thought back on the moment we came around the bend, it struck me that we couldn’t see the mountain, or the view, until after we fought through the rough waters and turned the corner. My perspective wasn’t clear, and the benefit wasn’t evident, until I came through the stormy waters. Sometimes life is a lot like that rafting trip.

We spend a lot of time coasting and then, without much warning, difficult pops up. In the midst of the difficulty, we might feel like things will never be “good” again. We struggle, head down and hands to the paddle, furiously trying to find a way through the stormy waters. And eventually we turn a corner where the river calms and we can catch our breath.

And it’s then that we learn the benefit and beauty of our struggling. The bible tells us to consider it a joy when we struggle through trials of all kinds. These trials perfect our faith. They fix our perspective. They help us plot a more positive course going forward. So when you find yourself in the middle of a difficult time, be encouraged. Joy comes in the morning. And when you’ve turned the corner, you’re likely to find a beautiful view that wasn’t available before the trial. God bless!