by Mike Burkett, Roundup staff reporter
Roundup reporter Mike Burkett was on vacation in Queenstown, New Zealand, when he heard that 5-year-old Ashley Allen had lost her 18-month battle with brain cancer March 17. Burkett had covered Ashley's medical ups and downs since her original diagnosis in October 1999.
How in the world could the too-short life of a beautiful 5-year-old girl be an incredible gift to us all?
Well, Ashley Allen's was. In many ways.
The loss of Payson's most well-known and prayed-for preschooler offers a powerful reminder of the brevity of our own visit to this place, with these friends, surrounded by these loved ones.
It reminds us that every fraction of every second of life is precious and not to be wasted by hating or arguing or judging or causing pain or worrying about things to come or regretting the past or wanting the world to be different than it is ... or anything but loving ourselves and everyone else, and appreciating our time together.
It puts every tiny event of every single day into crystal-clear perspective. It reminds us all too vividly that there are far worse possibilities in life than, oh, having to work late or losing your wallet or discovering that Wal-Mart has run out of your favorite dental floss ... or any of the other stupid, minuscule things we regularly allow to ruin our mood, dampen our spirits, or put a wedge in our relationships.
It reminds us to grab our own children and to hug them until they're old enough to break our hold.
It reminds us that children can endure huge and horrible events with more grace and courage than most adults can handle small, man-made crises.
It reminds us that, once, we were all Ashley's age, and that the same wonderful, loving, hopeful spirit she possessed and which made her so loved remains within ourselves, somewhere, hidden beneath adulthood.
And it reminds us that the most important human lessons don't always come from priests or scientists or experts.
They also can come from a beautiful, 5-year-old girl.