Life can change as fast as a crystal shattering — live it to the fullest

Annie Volk's picture

[Editor’s note: The following essay by Annie Volk was the J.C. Booth Middle School eighth-grade first-place winner in the Peachtree City Rotary Club’s “Laws of Life” student essay contest.]

Life can change as fast as a crystal glass shattering. Maggie Winston knows this all too well. We have been friends since kindergarten, and have shared many memories together. In all friendships, friends have to be there for each other, and this is true for the friendship Maggie and I have shared. Through our friendship I have learned important lessons: in life you have to help each other and live life to the fullest.

Maggie was adopted as a baby by two amazing people. Her adopted parents loved her as much as anyone could ever be loved. Maggie’s adopted father was such a blessing to Maggie, but was taken away from her at age 5. He had been struggling with cancer for many years; unfortunately he could not win the long battle.

Maggie and her mom were crushed. Being 5, I found it hard to understand the amount of pain they were going through. I was unable to do much to help except be a friend. We played house most of the time because it was Maggie’s favorite game. Maggie and I would take care of our baby dolls and also run around outside and play on my play fort. Doing these things would help take things off her mind and let her have some fun and be a regular little kid.

Though it was terrible that her dad was ripped away, things eventually became better. Maggie’s mom, Mary, worked with a man named Ryan at her job. During the illness of Maggie’s dad, Ryan tried to help them. His wife had died from a disease, too, and he knew what they were going through.

When Maggie’s dad passed away, Ryan helped them get through it. Mary and Ryan became closer friends as time went on. Eventually they started to date, and Mary and Maggie were happy again because of the help and friendship from Ryan and other friends.

Everyone adored Ryan, especially Maggie. He was so adventurous and silly. Not only was he amusing, but he was a teacher and a role model. He was outgoing and tried anything. Ryan was also helpful because he fixed things at Maggie’s house, like a small lift that brought people down to the lake they lived on.

Brightening any room he was in was also a talent of Ryan. You never had a dull moment around him. All my friends and I constantly wanted to go over to Maggie’s house or Ryan’s house with Maggie to go 4-wheeling. Simple things became humorous and fun when Ryan was around, and that’s why he had so many friends.

In October 2008, Mary and Ryan got married. I do not think Maggie was ever happier or had so much fun. We all went to the reception and had a blast. None of us will forget that night. Of course the reception had to be different since it was Ryan’s. The theme was pirates, so we all wore bandanas on our arms and heads. All of us got to take home the bandanas, and they would soon become symbols and a memory of Ryan’s fun life.

Four months after the wedding, life changed as fast as a crystal glass shattering. Ryan was killed in a small plane crash. His friend was a pilot and invited Ryan on a ride for the first time. They flew across the state to pick up the wife of his friend. On the way back, only 30 minutes away from landing, the winter weather of Wisconsin got the best of the small plane. All three passengers passed away.

Mary found out from the news late at night, after waiting for hours for Ryan to come back. The thought of such a great person being taken away from two people who needed him more than anything is absurd and dispiriting.

So many people were affected by the loss. Ryan was one of the most popular people I have ever known. Again this brought an opportunity to care and be there for a friend in need. Little, everyday things were done for Maggie and her mom. Mary was so heartbroken. Bliss had filled her life again, and then she was smacked back to sorrow. People made meals, cleaned, and even stayed with them. Many tears were cried by many people, not only for Ryan, but for Maggie and Mary. Seeing them so shattered for a second time was hard to watch, but we all tried to do our part as a friend for them.

Teachers were understanding and let the day of the funeral be an easy one because almost the entire seventh grade went. The large church was completely filled, full of people who were touched by Ryan. His funeral was a lesson to everyone.

Family spoke about his adventures in life. The stories talked about how he lived life to the fullest, taking each day at a time, living it thoughtfully, and being thankful for what he was given. Life events that he had, like his wife dying, made him do more and enjoy little things. He was a friend to all. Ryan’s life was an example of greatness, compassion, and love. Mary and Maggie were very lucky, and still are, to have known him and spent time with him while he was here. We all were. Ryan was a true hero.

Ryan loved compasses, and at his funeral his brother told a story that explained how Ryan tried to live like a compass. He did this to stay on track and never lose sight of the right way, always looking forward and never back. I believe we should all try to live our lives like that — live like Ryan. We all need to relax, enjoy life, but never get lost.

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else” — Ralph Waldo Emerson. Sadness and suffering brings opportunity to grow in life and as a person.

Being Maggie’s friend, I have learned so much, and probably some of the most important things about life. Friendship is a powerful thing. In kindergarten, I learned how to be a friend, and throughout my life I have learned even more about friendship.

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love” — Mother Theresa. It is the little things we do in life that help others and show friendship. The little things fill our lives. We should appreciate them and live life to its fullest.

[Local teachers may submit high quality student essays for consideration, though there is no assurance of selection or publication. Submit by email to Terry Garlock, community volunteer, at]

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