Her daughter, Lauren, had to write a "ceremonial speech" as part of a college class assignment. I was so moved by speech that I wanted to share it here. Special thanks to Lauren Gerard for allowing me to share this heartfelt story and for reminding those going through difficult times that "life goes on and there will always be good that will triumph the bad".
* * Lauren's Speech * *
When we first received this assignment, I thought, this has to be the most difficult speech by far. I have never given an inspirational speech. In fact, sometimes I feel like I am the one who needs inspiring. After thinking long and hard about my past experiences and challenges, the one thing I would like to share with you all is something that I have learned this past year: what does not kill you makes you stronger. I am a firm believer that every obstacle, every challenge, and every little thing that life throws your way will make you stronger.
As Eric Matthews from Boy Meets World once said, “Life’s tough get a helmet.” I don’t think we even develop a helmet until life throws something burdensome at us. With that said, I also believe it takes time for our helmets to grow and to become thicker. I never grasped the real meaning behind that line until last semester. When my best friend’s life was taken from her at only nineteen years old it hit me just how tough life can be. The weekend before Thanksgiving, my best friend, Sydne, took a really bad fall causing her to go into cardiac arrest, and she was taken off life support just three days later. I will never forget the image of her falling, or the sound of her mom screaming when she learned her daughter was brain dead, or the five hundred people who attended her funeral.
Sydne was my best friend at UMass. I could count on her to bring me up when I was down, make me laugh when I wanted to cry, and make me feel at home when I was feeling homesick. We did everything from going to the gym, eating meals, and walking to class together. Coming back to UMass after her funeral was the most difficult thing I ever had to do. I no longer had my best friend, future roommate or partner in crime. I kept wondering when I would wake up from this terrible nightmare. After months of crying over the loss of Sydne, it hit me that life must go on. I could spend my days sulking, but nothing was going to change what happened. Although there are no “bright sides” to the death of a friend, I learned that I gained my helmet. Dealing with the loss of a friend is exhausting, and it was time to realize that I need to move on.
As I was writing this speech I glanced over at my desk to my “Keep Calm and Carry On” mug. Oddly enough, Sydne and I bought these matching mugs a week before her accident. This corny, yet trendy saying has been something that has helped me get though my adversity, and I truly believe those words are important to live by. As many of you mentioned in your own speeches, life is too short, and the truth is, life is not perfect. We are all bound to run in to some difficulties on our journeys.
Life throws some wild obstacles at us, and there are plenty of stressors in today’s world. Whether it is a natural disaster, the loss of a family member or friend, or a terrorist attack, it is important that we do not let these obstacles inhibit us. It is so easy to let these stressors get the best of you but it so important that you fight through them. Sometimes we tend to get caught up in all the bad but we need to recognize that through all the bad there is still a lot of good. Thinking back to the Boston Bombings or even 9/11, there were just as many, if not more, good people as there were bad. There are plenty of people who wanted to bring America down, there were even more people running into the attacks to help and save others.
Every time we reach another problem, we are being tested and our helmets are getting ever thicker. Not only do we gain thicker helmets, but we also gain character. I do not think we should let the bad times define us, but no one would be who they are without a little hardship. I am sure most of you can think of a time where you have felt defeated, or that you just wanted to give up. For those of you fortunate enough to have never been in a situation where you feel like you are being defeated, I hope that if you do ever feel this way that you will remember life goes on and there will always be good that will triumph the bad.