Most of us will spend our entire lives attempting to accomplish some sort of deed or deeds that will have people talking about us long after our time on Earth here is complete. Human beings have been walking the Earth for roughly 200,000 years, and the 80 or so we get (if we are lucky) while we are on this planet are scarcely a blip on the cosmic radar screen.
We want to leave a lasting legacy that allows us to extend our time here on planet Earth, even if we can’t do it physically. It’s why people name buildings after themselves (otherwise known as the “edifice complex”). It’s why people love seeing their names in print (which is good for people in my profession). It’s why some people want children and grandchildren — to help carry on the family name. We want to make our mark on this world.
We want to matter.
At the end of the day, though, time marches on. Buildings eventually crumble. The printed word grows yellow and brittle with age. To truly make a difference in this world and be forever remembered, you have to touch someone’s life. You have to make the world a better place for you and those around you. Whether it’s a small group of people or a large one, you want to impact lives and affect people in ways they will forever remember. Some people will live long lives of desperation trying to accomplish this feat.
And some will do it in a few, short years.
Next week marks the two-year anniversary of the tragic death of Gabrielle Nicole Ellis, who was just 12 years old when she perished in an automobile accident alongside her grandmother, Lois. Gabby didn’t have nearly enough time on this planet — an unfairly short amount of time — but I am quite certain those who know Gabby will never forget her.
I know my daughter certainly won’t.
Gabby was my daughter Sophie’s best friend. The two met in preschool and immediately became inseparable. They were together nearly every waking moment through elementary school. Even when Gabby and her family moved to Vandalia in the sixth grade, she and Sophie kept in constant contact with one another, often FaceTiming one another late into the night, laughing and giggling about whatever it is 12-year-old girls find amusing.
My daughter had everything she could ever want in a best friend. They were polar opposites in so many ways — Gabby was so outgoing and fun-loving, while my daughter has always been more grounded and pensive — that it made them a perfect match. Gabby would force Sophie outside of her comfort zone, while my daughter would bring Gabby back down to earth when the occasion required it.
They were supposed to be best friends forever. They should have discovered boys together (although I’m pretty sure Gabby, with her bubbly personality, might have found them before Sophie) and gone on double dates together. They should have double-dated at their high school proms. They should have been bridesmaids in one another’s weddings. They should have had kids and those kids should have become best friends.
It didn’t happen that way, which seems unfair in ways I can’t even express. Two years ago at this time, my wife and I had to look our little girl in the eyes and tell her that her best friend was gone and never coming back. No family should have to go through what Gabby’s family continues to struggle through to this day and no little girl should ever have to attend her best friend’s funeral.
While we don’t have Gabby any more, what we do have is her memory. At a very young age, little Gabby touched hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives with her positive attitude and brilliant smile. She was so full of laughter and positivity and most of all, hope. Teachers and classmates will always remember her. Friends will forever carry her in their hearts. Truthfully, anyone who ever met that precious little ball of energy will never forget little Gabby.
Neither will my daughter.
And that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment — one most people spend much longer trying to accomplish — for an all-too-short time here.
David Fong writes for the Troy Daily News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.