Dear Nancy, I am not throwin’ away my shot.

Dear Nancy,

I’ve begun a new ritual. Each morning in the car I listen to the Hamilton soundtrack, and more specifically, the song “My Shot.” Alexander Hamilton is fiercely singing about his drive to show up and go all in on his life despite his rough start, and despite all that is stacked against him.

Just hearing the beginning of the song can bring me to tears almost instantly, but there is one section in which Lin-Manuel Miranda’s voice is at a fever pitch – on the edge of yelling but still singing, and I catch my breath each time:

“I’m past patiently waitin’ I’m passionately smashin’ every expectation
Every action’s an act of creation
I’m laughin’ in the face of casualties and sorrow
For the first time, I’m thinkin’ past tomorrow
And I am not throwin’ away my shot.”

Your death was more than a surprise to me; it was a full on sucker punch. Before then I lived comfortably in a bubble of contentment and safety. It was easy to relax and never push myself to do more. Or be more. I had all the time in the world to make things happen – tomorrow was just a good time as any.

Enter the sucker punch. The burst bubble. The grief, the loss, the emptiness, the madness, the anger, the sudden loss of safety.

It was more than a wake up call. It was a call to LIFE.

And all at once I decided “I am not throwin’ away my shot.” I am not waiting another minute to do this work. To create, to laugh, to take risks, to begin.

You were a writer before anything else. You poured over books, blog posts, newspaper articles. It filled you up. And it flowed out of you, a torrent of ideas and knowledge and words and stories.

But you were rejected. You gave your manuscript to someone you trusted and she ripped you to shreds and told you lies.

I’m afraid you believed her. I’m afraid you didn’t keep going or invest in yourself because you thought she was right.

You were told “no” so many times in your life. You were weighed down by the limitations of your health and hearing loss. But you kept going. Found a new route. Exceeded all expectation.

But this. This is one of those moments where I wonder what your life could have been if you didn’t put so much stake in her words. If you had rejected her rejection.

Because, you see, I am not throwin’ away my shot. I am not throwing away the opportunity of truly living. To go so big that I have few regrets, if any. I am not throwing away the gift of perspective your life and death has given me.

I am not throwin’ away my shot. Or yours. I’ve thought recently how your death has made me a writer. So maybe, in this way, it is your shot. Not your words, but your influence and your love. Not your story, as it’s not mine to tell, but the ways our lives intertwined and created our story.

I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory
When’s it gonna get me?
In my sleep, seven feet ahead of me?
If I see it comin’, do I run or do I let it be?
Is it like a beat without a melody?
See, I never thought I’d live past twenty
Where I come from some get half as many
Ask anybody why we livin’ fast and we laugh, reach for a flask
We have to make this moment last, that’s plenty

I’m going to make these moments last and, dear Nancy, I am not throwin’ away my shot.

Love,

George

 

 

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