...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

What Malala said to me - and for my sister
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As noted previously, I went to hear Malala Yousafzai on July 24.

Let me just note for the convention-runners and meeting planners among us, that there is nothing and I mean nothing, more frustrating than watching bad organizing happen in front of you. I could do paragraphs but suffice it to say that there were so many screw-ups that the program began an hour late.*

That's separate and sadly funny. But it's not important.

I want to tell you is that this young woman is the most grounded, most together, most aware, most focused human being I might have ever heard speak. She is, as I noted earlier, just 19 years old. She was shot and was expected to die when she was 15. She knows who she is, why she is here and cannot, will not, be stopped.

I tried to think about what I was like at 19 years old. I like to think I was pretty together, pretty focused. (at 15? Not so much.) But this is a girl who was blogging about education. From the BBC's website "Malala was 11 when she began writing a diary for BBC Urdu." She was 11 years old and articulate and aware and determined.

I won't even try to paraphrase what Malala said but I will tell you what I heard, what I carried away from me. That she knows what her job is. She knows what she is to do for the rest of her life. Malala will work tirelessly for the education of children, especially girls.This is why men with guns tried to stop her and shot her and two of her friends. Because these girls wanted the right to go to school. When the Taliban came to the Swat Valley, to her home and destroyed over 150 schools in one year alone, she saw the fight ahead.

One thing she talked about was "the worst that can happen." Malala Yousafzai has been there. She was shot in the head at point-blank range. She was supposed to die. She didn't die. She's known the worst, she said. It did not and will not stop her. It isn't that she is fearless (she is not, shall we say, especially fond of dogs - ask Jon Stewart) but she faced death already. She is an observant Muslim and has dealt with the reality and meaning of life and death in her faith and in her thoughts. She knows.

This is what else that comes through loud and clear. It is the confirmation of a thought that has been circling my head for months. It is not a brilliant insight, but one that, since Stu died in November of 2014, one that I have come to know very well. It was said best by Lin-Manuel Miranda in his sonnet at the Tony Awards, written the night before, after hearing news of the Orlando killings at Pulse. In that sonnet he says

"nothing here is promised, not one day".

And over and over i hear that reality. Over and over I am reminded of what I had. And while I still deal with grief and heartache and loss, I also remember that the only promises were those we made to each other.

And that for anyone, that is a reminder that many of us get bonus time. My father, who was a recovering alcoholic, went into the hospital one night when, he told me later, if he'd been drinking, he just would have had another drink. He would have died that night. Instead, he asked for help and that night had open heart surgery.

So many of us have faced this: Stu was not sure, years ago, that he would survive surgery for his AVM - arteriovenous malformation. Friends and loved ones (and yes, again, my father) have survived cancer, something that for so many, has meant extra time, bonus. I know not everyone feels that way. I have some issue with the idea of life as a gift because that implies that someone gave me that gift, and as most of you who know me well, know, I have not one speck of spiritual belief in me and do not believe I "received" anything from anything or anyone.

I see lots of people living through pain and loss and terrible illness and awful conditions full of awful treatments and having more time. For Malala Yousafzai, it could have ended four years ago. And I hope that her bonus time is full of success and beauty and accomplishment and joy.

And it doesn't mean you have to go out and save the world either. That is a hard part because oh,guilt, oh waste, oh golly gee, I've been given this gift. No. You get to read, and nap, and pet the kitty, and dally and goof off, and search for imaginary critters, and reread old favorite books and drink wine and color and goof off and relax and sleep in all you want. You do not necessarily have to use this time to improve yourself or give back or nuttin. If that sounds good to you, fabulous. It's your time. I am hoping that for the rest of my life I can work on womens' rights and sensible gun control. I'm also sleeping until noon some days.

Lin-Manuel Miranda also says in that sonnet

"We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger".

This is our chance, Malala's chance, to live through times when love and strength, equality and justice might prevail. Well worth living for.

*The honored speaker apologized for the delay. Thanked the audience. Three times. As part of the delay was about security scanning, she said she would get rid of it if she could. That she could not do so tells you about her life.

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