Holly Butcher, who recently died at age 27 of a rare form of cancer that affects the bones, wrote a letter to her friends and family in her last week of life giving wise and moving advice about how to get the most out of whatever time we each have on Earth.
I’ve gleaned 14 life lessons from the young Australian woman’s incredible letter that I think carry profound lessons for us all. Here they are, with words from her letter quoted below each lesson, in Australian spellings just as she wrote them:
1. Life is a gift and your time could be up at any moment.
“It is fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right. I’m 27 now. I don’t want to go. I love my life. I am happy. But the control is out of my hands.”
2. Your problems are tiny and often meaningless.
“Those times you are whinging about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem.”
3. Stop worrying about the small stuff – and when things don’t go your way.
“Let all that s— go … I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole.”
4. What really matters in life are love, friends and family.
“I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more Birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.”
5. Being healthy doesn’t equal having the body everyone else wants you to have.
“… work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness too. That way you might realise just how insignificant and unimportant having this stupidly portrayed perfect social media body really is.”
6. It’s true: it’s more blessed to give than to receive.
“Give, give, give.… It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more.”
7. Material things and gifts don’t create love and connection.
“This year, our family agreed to do no presents … those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could.… Anyway, moral of the story – presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas.”
8. The best things in life are free.
“Get up early sometimes and listen to the birds while you watch the beautiful colours the sun makes as it rises. Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.”
9. Reassess and readjust your life priorities.
“Work to live, don’t live to work.”
10. Live with joy and purpose, not fear or guilt.
“Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy. Eat the cake. Zero guilt.”
11. Live for yourself; not to please others.
“Say no to things you really don’t want to do.”
12. Express love now – don’t wait until it is too late.
“Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.”
13. You have control over your life, and no time to be miserable.
“Also, remember if something is making you miserable, you do have the power to change it – in work or love or whatever it may be. Have the guts to change. You don’t know how much time you’ve got on this earth so don’t waste it being miserable.”
14. At your very last moment, you will remember the people you love.
“…a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend it here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life…. ‘Til we meet again.”