THE BLOG
02/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Play-Doh Theory Of Life

Death is never easy. I have been struggling to find the right words for this message but realized sometimes the only way you can start is by stating the facts. Lindsay died on December 11. She was waiting for a ride in a parking lot with a friend when someone lost control of a car and hit her. She was fourteen years old. Her mother and father are my friends. I visited my friends at their home a few days after the accident. I had hoped to help comfort them and just let them know that they are loved and are in our prayers. I knew there weren't any magical words, but I hoped that another hug would in some way help them. I don't think you can ever have too many hugs.

As I stepped into their home, I immediately hugged Lindsay's father. I knew that he had been hugged hundreds of times in the last few days, but the length of the hug and the power of the hug told me that he was still in need of more hugging. I don't mean to complain but Lindsay's father, who was a defensive lineman in college, is a very large man and strong man. As he squeezed me he used much of that strength. I am fairly sure I will be alright with a few years of physical therapy. I turned to Lindsay's mother and gently hugged her. I was extra gentle because, after her husband's hug almost crushed me, I had minimal use of my arms.

We talked for nearly four hours. We cried some, but we mostly smiled and laughed. The subjects were varied. We talked about the accident and of our worries for the person who was driving the car. We talked about our history together. We talked about our jobs. We talked about our families. We talked about Lindsay.

Lindsay and her parents had moved to a town about an hour away. I hadn't gotten to see them much in the last three years. As her parents shared stories about what her classmates said about her and the things they had done to honor her, I realized how special she was. Lindsay left a bigger mark in fourteen years than many leave in seventy five. What I learned about Lindsay helped me know that she had not gone far. She left little bits of her heart all over her community. She learned at a young age what some never learn. When all is said and done, it's about kindness and compassion. When all is said and done, life is measured by how many grins you have helped other people find.

Someone once shared the Play-Doh Theory of Life with me. Interacting in the world is the same as playing with Play-Doh. You can't play with Play-Doh without leaving a mark on it. It may be a faint fingerprint or a deep impression, but you have left a mark. At the end of every day, we should ask ourselves how we affected the world. What kind of mark did I leave today? We need to answer the question, 'Did I cast a shadow or light a light today?' Some people live their entire lives without realizing that the imprint they are leaving behind is one that casts shadows. The result is that they struggle to find happiness. Lindsay was only here fourteen years but had already learned that you can't find happiness by chasing it. You will only find happiness by creating it for others.

As I was leaving that day, I hugged Lindsay's mother and accepted the risk of hugging her father again. I felt good knowing the world would always be a kinder and gentler place because she lived. She spread light that will shine forever. Her close friend said it best when she said, "Lindsay believed that homework was optional, but happiness was mandatory. She wanted everyone to be happy." Can I get an AMEN?