Dear Claire Wineland,
You know how there are some people in life, who, when you see them, you just… click?
That’s what it was like when I first stumbled upon your videos on Youtube. I wasn’t even searching for them, but when I found them, I couldn’t stop. You, a girl only a few years older than me, seemed to have such a tight grip on the world. Who you were, where you were going, everything. You knew yourself so clearly and, as a pimply little thirteen-year-old who barely knew her first name, I was enthralled.
Over the next few years, you became somewhat of an older sister to me. I would watch your Ted Talks if I needed inspiration. Every new video was immediately devoured. You actively shaped my development as a teenager. I don’t know if I can even credit my teachers with that big of a part in helping me become me.
When I heard about your passing, it struck me hard. You were such a big part of what made me me, and when you passed, it tore a hole in my heart. I immediately turned to your creations for comfort, rewatching your Ted Talks straight off the bat. That was when you posthumously reminded me of one of your core beliefs: “Death is inevitable. Living a life we can be proud of is something we can control.”
Throughout your videos and speeches, you always emphasized that you knew your life was going to be short. Cystic fibrosis, the disease you were born with, is terminal, and you knew that. You didn’t sugarcoat it, you didn’t avoid the topic. You talked about it so openly, it was just a part of you.
Even then, you didn’t let it become you. You weren’t the sick girl who was dying; you were a philanthropist, a businesswoman, a scholar, a motivational speaker. You were never your illness–you embraced it and ran with it. Claire, in your short years, you completely embodied the idea of living a life you are proud of. You did so much that no one could claim that you were just your illness. To quote from you yet again, “You can be suffering and you can still be okay. You can be suffering and you can still make something beautiful.”
Claire, your passing has undoubtedly left a hole in my life. I know I didn’t know you personally, I don’t even think you knew that I existed, but your light touched me through the screen and will continue to touch others as long as the internet exists. From the big things, like how to deal with the inevitability of passing, to the little things, like the joys of frozen blackberries, you always gave me a lesson on something. And for that I will forever be grateful. You will forever live on in the lives you’ve touched and the amazing things you’ve created.
Thank you for showing me how to understand my life. My only hope is that mine can make as much of an impact on someone as yours has on mine.