the privilege of choice.

March 16, 2008

sunset joy 2 1

The ability to choose is not a right, it is a privilege we are given by life, until we either give up that privilege, or life takes it away from us.

I have written on a similar theme before, in my post rocks, but I feel the message deserves further consideration, based on recent events in my life.  If it sounds repetitive, I don’t care.  I want to scream it from the tallest mountain, at the top of my lungs.

I have two personal experiences to share today.

My neighbour committed suicide two days ago.  She was 18 years old, and had just broken up with her boyfriend.  I wish that she had chosen to speak with someone, to ask for help.  So much potential that the world will never see.  She is no longer free to choose what she wants to do with her life.

I also learned today that my cousin has cancer throughout her body.  She did everything right, worked hard throughout her life, saved her money, and retired four years ago, no doubt expecting to be able to enjoy her life for many years to come.  She has undergone treatment, but it has not worked, and she has been given only a short time to live.

Many people are not so lucky to be given the privilege of choice.  War, disease, hunger take them early.

Perhaps you are in a bad place, emotionally or otherwise.  You could just give up, and that would be a tragedy.

Or you could ask for help.  From anyone.  No matter how low you think you are, there is someone who has been lower, and has clawed back up from the darkness.

I have been there.  Many of us have, perhaps even you.  But there is healing.

My wife and I held our prematurely born daughter in our arms for an hour before she passed away, back in 2001.  Her twin brother survived, and is alive and well – a miracle.  We also survived, and have had three more children since then – triplets.

There is so much more to the story, and I will tell it in time.

If you are still alive, if you can still put one foot in front of the other, you are better off than many.  The sun will come up tomorrow.

Perhaps you don’t like your job, you would rather be doing something else.  You could just read these words, and go back to complaining.

Or you could decide, right now, to change.  Do it, for you might not get another chance.  Life might take the privilege away.  Someday, it will.

It is never too late, until the end.  And we know not when that comes.

Freedom of choice is a privilege.  Be thankful that you have it.  Do not give it up.  If you remember two things in life, remember this:

1. Exercise your freedom to choose your course in life, your actions and words.  And if you fall, get back up again.  Someone will help you.

2. Make your choices as early as possible – now! – and adjust your course as necessary.  It is never too late to change.  You may not get a second chance.

Today I chose to take a walk with my children, in the sunshine.  If it were my last day on earth, I’d have done the same thing.

To be continued…

Inspired by Bill Bull’s comment at Zen Habits in a post about focus.  I chose to turn a negative into a positive.  I am happy to have had the privilege of choice.


27 Responses to “the privilege of choice.”

  1. wendikelly Says:

    Brett, I am SO sorry to hear about your neighbour and your cousin. I wish I could pop out some comforting words, but I know there aren’t any. It’s so hard.

    I guess all we can do from here is to re-affirm our committment to try to make a difference wherever and whenever we can.

    I hate the cancer monster. We have had to fight it in our family not too long ago.

    Someday I will share my twins story with you.
    It seems we have a lot more in common then we first thought.

  2. brettlegree Says:

    Hi Wendy, thank you for your words anyway. Just to say something at all is compassion.

    That’s right – just continue to do what we can do, even the smallest little thing makes a difference somewhere.

    We have been touched by cancer on a more personal level too. My wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer shortly after she gave birth to our triplets. Luckily for us, the therapy worked and so far there is no sign of it returning. This is just part of the rest of the story.

    Yes, it seems that we do have a lot more in common than we first thought. When you are ready to share your story, I will be here to listen.

  3. The Friar Says:


    So sorry to hear about your neighbour and your cousin.

    As you know, my Mom almost died of cancer 5 years ago. When we thought she was done for, we all worried “How will Dad take care of himself when she’s gone?”

    Well, Mom got better (she now spends each winter as a part-time ski instructor out in BC).

    But it was Dad who died, totaly unexpectedly, in his sleep, just two years ago. (The same day he shot a 76 on the golf course).

    I guess it shows that nothing in life is ever a “given”. You just dont’ know. Make the best of what you have now.

  4. Wow Brett, this is powerful and yet so sad. What a waste of life indeed. I’m sorry to hear what happened in your life with all the hardship you have gone through.

    You are one amazing strong person and I admire you for keeping positive amidst all the gloom.

  5. brettlegree Says:

    Hi Friar,

    Yes, I thought about your mother while I was writing this article, and your father as well. We’ve talked about this before, and how important it is to get busy living right now, while you still can. That’s why I know that “you get it”. Thanks for stopping by…

  6. brettlegree Says:

    Monika – thank you again for your kind words of support. I don’t know that I’ve gone through any more or any less than anyone I know, but I do know one thing:

    I am very fortunate to have met great people such as yourself. Friends like you who help us through life are what keeps us going.

    We need to band together and be strong, and keep alive the memory of people who are no longer with us, by sharing all of the great things that they did and said in the short time they were with us.

  7. wendikelly Says:

    I think that this is really the key. Building the friends and family that keep memories alive and also sharing our lives with the people who really do “get it”. Life is short and a gift. We get to wake up every day and decide how we are going to make it special today.
    Together we can create a net that is strong and cast it out far and wide to make a difference.

  8. Amy Says:

    Excellent post Brett. My condolences on your cousin and neighbor. Sad that it is often the tragedies of others that spring our lives into action, but better now than never. Enjoyed reading this.

  9. brettlegree Says:

    Thank you Amy. That you and others read and enjoyed it, means a lot to me. If one single person reads these words and decides to change for the better, today, then I am happy.

  10. This post really touches my heart, Brett. It seems the universe has decided to send much inspiration my way today. Every which way I turn I find a story of warmth and compassion.

    Life is so full of ups and downs, and it can be difficult to move past the great sorrows that we encounter. I admire the way you are reaching out and helping people through your writing. It’s beautiful.

  11. Wow…. what a post… you gave me a wake up call Brett. I think I’ll take a walk with my kids tonight..

  12. brettlegree Says:

    Melissa – thank you. I really appreciate your kind words. You have done the same for me, with your writing. The chance to share feelings with others, through words and ideas, is priceless. No matter how my day goes at work, a simple compliment such as yours makes it hard to stop smiling, both inside and out.

  13. brettlegree Says:

    Christine – quite simply, thank you. I should thank you, again and again. If I gave you a wake up call, then I still owe you at least 5 or 6 more. I hope that you enjoy your walk tonight.

    These are the important things in life. I took my little girl to get her hair cut tonight, just her. My kids all love to ride in my car, it is a special thing I do as the car is too small to take all of them at once πŸ™‚ so when I have a chance, I take them out one by one. I felt bad as I was late home from work, but it totally turned around her day. And it was so easy.

  14. Francis Kopke Says:

    Yet again and am a little bit taken aback. We must be psychically connected. I was thinking about exactly what you wrote about.
    If you don’t have your health, you don’t have a choice. If you are sick, does it really matter if you are on time for work? Can you take a walk with your kids if you are not well? No, so do it while you are healthy because you never know when you won’t be able to anymore.

    I probably just reiterated what you wrote but I though it first, I just didn’t write it down. Reminds of of Graham Bell, got the patent by nine minutes.

    Sorry to hear about your news, but I’m glad it helped you “learn a lesson”. We are are humble students….


  15. brettlegree Says:


    Life continually teaches us lessons, we only have but to listen… I spoke with a few of my co-workers today about this, knowing they don’t read blog pages. I guess I just try to encourage people to live for now, rather than dream of retirement. The sunshine today is just as beautiful if not more so than it will be 10 years from now. And your kids are only young once.

    Yes, we do think alike, which is why we’ve been friends for so long.

    We are long overdue for a beer, my friend…

  16. joohliah Says:

    Hi Brett,

    I’m very busy so I haven’t spoken much on the blogosphere lately, but I’m still reading πŸ™‚

    I’m so sorry to hear about these sad news… Although I truely believe that using those terrible things to move forward is the most wonderful way to pay our last respects to those who are not as lucky as we are. Living our life is the best thing we can do, for them and for us.

    I’m sending loads of loving towards you and your loved ones.

    Oh, and I love the small smiley hidden at the top right hand corner of your blog πŸ™‚

  17. brettlegree Says:

    Hi Joohliah,

    Well, you have a lot of great stuff on the go, so it is understandable – we know you’ve been around, you bring a lot of joy when you are here, even if you’re not saying much.

    Thank you for your kind words, and may I return the sentiments back to you as well. Take care of yourself, stay healthy and stay happy! I know you will. πŸ˜‰

    I’m glad you liked that – it’s kind of neat, isn’t it… πŸ™‚ I laugh every time I see it!

  18. Allison Says:


    I am so sorry to hear about your neighbor and your cousin. Life is so cruel sometimes.

    My father survived prostate cancer.
    My brother survived leukemia, but just relapsed last September.

    I know how difficult it is to live knowing a family member has cancer, but I am a lucky one – my brother should be fine following the treatment.

    My brother is a huge inspiration to me. Even though he has cancer, again, he’s happy, he has tons of friends who support him 100%, and he has even started his own mini-business of drawing pictures on canvas shoes and selling them to his friends and the nurses at the hospital!

    I think I’m pretty lucky – I generally tend to laugh at myself when others might be depressed at the situation. For example, I was in a somewhat bad car accident three years ago. Obviously I survived, and nowadays you can’t tell anything ever happened by looking at me except for a small scar on my eye. I remember the first time I saw myself in the mirror after the accident probably on my 3rd or 4th day in the hospital, and my first comment was, “damn I’m ugly!” With my hair still matted with blood, my forehead a little bashed in, and my nose broken, it wasn’t a pretty picture but I found it pretty funny. πŸ˜›

  19. brettlegree Says:

    Allison – thank you for your understanding and compassion – it seems that many people here have been touched by illness, in one way or another, whether it be a family member or a friend.

    Your brother truly is an inspiration – tell him that out here, there are caring people thinking about him and wishing him well. He is living proof that you should never, ever give up. Your father too.

    And you – wow – you are such a strong person, stronger than you realize. I think that is why you offer so much in your writing, you have experience beyond your years for sure. I consider myself very lucky to have met you.

    I will be proud to wear one of your t-shirts. πŸ™‚

  20. Allison Says:

    Brett – Thank you. That means so much to me. πŸ™‚

  21. brettlegree Says:

    Allison – you are welcome. And thanks for the help arranging to get the t-shirt. It will be a real head-turner… πŸ™‚

  22. Allison Says:

    Brett – I hope you like it! πŸ˜€

  23. brettlegree Says:

    Allison – it is a beautiful, original piece of artwork, I’m sure it will get lots of comments when I wear it!

  24. Jenny Says:


    That was a beautiful post and I am so sorry about your neighbour and cousin. Sometimes I forget that I am able to ask for help, your post helped me see why I should remember to ask. Thanks for the inspiration!

  25. brettlegree Says:


    Thank you very much for your kind words. I am happy that my story was able to reach you today. And you are quite welcome. I took a few minutes to stop by your blog and I really like it, especially your latest post about music. Music is also very important to me and I’ll be writing a few posts in future about some of the songs that have most influenced me.

    Take care of yourself – Brett

  26. Brett, your family and neighbors have my sympathies. Your words, “If one single person reads these words and decides to change for the better, today, then I am happy.” is exactly why I decided to become a blogger back in June 2007. It is why I choose to write about my childhood experiences of abuse on my blog.

    I didn’t grow up having choices. My dad was a dictator. When I left home, I discovered what having choices meant. There is a freedom and a responsibility that goes with making choices. Thanks for reminding me of that. Today I choose to see mistakes as lessons that I learn from and obstacles as challenges to overcome and grow from. I love my life as I choose to make it better each day.

  27. brettlegree Says:

    Patricia, thank you for your kindness. That is also why I am here, if we can share our own experiences and insights, and perhaps help someone else, then that is a very special opportunity not to be missed.

    If I can pass on something to everyone I know, my family, friends, everyone, it is that it is never too late to choose to change.

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