MANDY FLYNN: A life well lived

FEATURES COLUMN: Though her time was too short, Meredith Stapleton lived it to the fullest

I first met Meredith about a year and a half ago. It was Christmas and we were with family in Plains. Our North Carolina cousins had come down for the holiday and Meredith was cousin Christopher’s new bride of only a few months. She had short brown hair and the most beautiful smile.

I didn’t see Meredith again until just a few months ago at my uncle’s funeral. We were in North Carolina — my daughter, my mother and I. People were talking and laughing, telling stories of growing up and getting into trouble and making plans and sharing lives. Someone said it makes them happy to talk about old times. I asked Meredith what made her happy. “I’m happy every day,” she said. And there was that smile.

Meredith used to write a blog, she said, and when I got home from North Carolina I looked it up. As I sat and read the words of this young girl I felt myself wanting to cry but nothing would come out. Because she didn’t mean for it to be sad. She meant it to be happy. This amazing girl half my age had more wisdom and more strength than anyone I have ever known.

Meredith Elise Legg Stapleton died Monday. We all knew that it was coming, that it was inevitable. Still, we hoped for a miracle. We can always hope.

As I thought about what I should do — send flowers to her home or to the church or a card or a donation or all of the above — another thought came to mind. I went back to my computer and found her blog, the one Meredith started to write after she was diagnosed with rare ocular melanoma and was undergoing treatment. She wrote it because she wanted to share it, needed to share her words.

And one thing I can do is help her share some of them now …

Isn’t our life full of unknowns? Are we living each day like we know what our future will hold? The blessing of having cancer is that you do know one thing: you can choose to live your life differently. You can approach life knowing you have an advantage of living life to the fullest. Doing things that make you happy, not sweating the small stuff, valuing your time with friends and family.

I do know this. God has used me to help others by telling my testimony. I know that God’s purpose for me is greater than my understanding. I know I have faith in God to pull me through this tough time … Stop worrying about the unknown future, focus on today. Live your life for Christ and the rest will fall into place.

Don’t take life for granted — don’t sweat the small stuff — allow God to work in you and through you — you can do amazing things in such a short amount of time!

Meredith wrote those last words when she was only 24.

Meredith was so much more than just a young girl with cancer. She was more than an awesome basketball player who owned USC Aiken and Peach Belt Conference records in free throws and three-pointers. She was an incredible wife, sister, daughter, friend. She was an amazing Christian. She was a fighter.

Just last week, only a few days before she died, Meredith lived out one of her dreams. She was there when her beloved Tar Heels beat Duke. If you have a minute, please read about this amazing woman’s journey at GoHeels.com “Lucas: She Lives For This.” I promise you won’t be disappointed.

There’s a photo of Meredith. You’ll recognize her by her beautiful smile.

Email columnist Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.