By now you’ve probably read Holly Butcher’s beautiful and stirring letter posted to social media and shared more than 57,000 times.
A 27-year old from Grafton NSW, Holly passed away on January 3rd after battling the rare cancer, Ewing Sarcoma for more than a year. At 26, she was mentally preparing herself for death—a fate so heartbreaking and unfair it’s hard to swallow.
Her parting words, however, were a poignant gift. A reminder that life is not a certainty and it’s worth your time– no matter the curveballs thrown in your direction–to stop and recognise small and simple joys so often taken for granted.
“It’s a strange thing to realise and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore,” she writes. “The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; Until the unexpected happens. I always imagined myself growing old, wrinkled and grey- most likely caused by the beautiful family (lots of kiddies) I planned on building with the love of my life. I want that so bad it hurts.”
“Take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that – breathe,” Holly writes.
“Get up early sometimes and listen to the birds while you watch the beautiful colours the sun makes as it rises, Listen to music.. really listen. Music is therapy. Old is best.Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.”
Holly also implores us not to give into trivial or superficial anxieties. To stop spending hours on make-up, obsessing over body parts, bad haircuts and everyday frustrations.
“Appreciate your good health and functioning body- even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is. Move it and nourish it with fresh food. Don’t obsess over it,” she writes.
The most wrenching paragraphs in the letter are ones where Holly reflects on a lifetime of moments she’ll miss with family and loved ones.
“I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.”
The cruel reality of a young woman, with a zest for life, losing it so early is impossible to make sense of.
As a 27-year old myself, Holly’s words struck my core. Like Holly, I have a beautiful life. I live in a beautiful place, have a loving partner, a supportive family, close-knit friends, and a job I adore.
Yet, too often, (more than I care to admit) I angst over meaningless moments. I fail to look out that window, and I take for granted the absolute, miraculous good fortune that’s befallen me.
So here is my promise, a pledge I am making in response to Holly’s sage advice:
This year I will give blood– as much as I can. I will not spend more than 15 minutes in front of a mirror at any given time. I will not mention the things I dislike about my body. I will walk somewhere beautiful every day. I will take risks. I will volunteer for people in need. I will stop living through my phone and laptop. I will keep exercising and eating well. I will say ‘no’ when necessary and I will vest more effort and infinite love in my relationships with friends and family.
I will recognise just how earth-shatteringly lucky I am.
Thank you Holly, for the most timely reminder.