Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

A True Light


On April 10, 1997, a true light was born into this world. Although she died on Sept. 2 of this year, it is impossible to ignore the incredible impact she had in such a short time in this world.

Claire Wineland was born with Cystic Fibrosis. It causes an overload of mucus to accumulate in the body, which over time causes organs to malfunction and fail. Doctors told Claire that her life expectancy was never anticipated to be longer than 10 years, but she kept beating the odds and embracing every present moment as if it were her last. “We have no control over when we’re going to die,” she said. “But what we do have control over is whether or not we are proud of our own lives.”

Her wisdom was far beyond her years and she inspired everyone with her unique perspective of life. “I am so proud to be alive. I’m not saying that I don’t feel pain, I’m not saying that I don’t feel sadness and suffering and loneliness. Because that’s what it means to be a human being. I’m saying that the pain and the sadness and the suffering is beautiful.”

She knew how powerful and meaningful suffering is. She truly embraced the experience of being human and all the good and the bad that comes with it.

She was very passionate about making something beautiful and meaningful with her life in the time she was given. At the age of 13, she spearheaded the creation of a nonprofit organization called Claire’s Place Foundation, and later wrote a book titled “Every Breath I Take: Surviving and Thriving with Cystic Fibrosis.”

Throughout her life, she traveled all over the world to give speeches. She believed in the power of bettering herself and took lessons with a professional public speaker so that her words would be spoken eloquently.

She made several videos that are featured on YouTube, and it is so clear to see her joy and love of life. She spoke in such a genuine and inspirational way that it’s hard not to cling to her every word.

I encourage you to look her up; her insight and understanding truly makes you pause and reconsider the way you look at life. Even when she was young, she lived her life with a true acceptance of death and spoke openly of her own mortality.

She wasn’t mindlessly optimistic, but rather had an unbelievable understanding of life. Despite her struggles and spending a fourth of her life inside a hospital, she was tireless in her efforts to create a life of which she could truly be proud.

“Giving something of ourselves is what makes life worth living,” she said. She knew the importance of living a life with true substance. At such a young age, she knew that the purpose of life was not to chase moments of happiness but to embrace pain and discomfort. She recognized that pain and suffering were inevitable aspects of living a life that makes a difference to others. She truly understood that life is meant to be selfless and not to constantly be an attempt to make ourselves comfortable.

More from Claire: “You’re never going to be happy with what you get unless you’re happy with what you have. And that’s what you have to do with your life. You have to look at all of it, all of the pain, all of the loneliness, all of the beauty, all of the friendship and family. You have to lay it all in front of you and say, ‘okay this is what I have. It’s all wonderful and what can I make with it.’”

I challenge you to live a life as remarkable as Claire Wineland in a way that is true selfless service to others. Reflect on what you are experiencing: What can you create with the life you have been given?