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Life is hard. Be like the dandelion.

Life is hard. That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that life can throw some pretty rough and pretty fast curve balls. Sometimes it feels like you can dodge them. Other times it can feel like you’ve been hit smack in the face with them. Regardless, whether you’re able to dodge them or are getting pommeled by them, it is never a pleasant experience when life throws you one.

I’ve lived a pretty sheltered life compared to most and I consider myself to be blessed, but as sheltered as my life has been I have had experiences that have shaken my faith, disrupted my world and left me shattered.

The death of my older brother was one of life’s dreaded curve balls that hit me smack in the face, knocked me down and left me “different”. Prior to my brother’s death, I lost one of my uncles to cancer. While recovering from the grief of losing my uncle, I was smacked with the unexpected death of my brother 7 months later. I was 20 years old and their deaths were my first experience with someone close to me dying (see what I mean by sheltered).

Last year in November, life threw another curve ball that almost knocked me out. My 18 year old niece (my brother’s daughter) passed away. All of the pain, trauma, heartbreak and grief that I felt when my brother died resurfaced when my niece died. I felt numb, confused, and angry simultaneously. I could not understand why God would do this to our family twice. It was like a cruel joke and I did not understand the punch line.

When I mentioned that I was left “different”, I wholeheartedly mean that. I am not the same. With each loss, I feel as if chunks of me were taken away and replaced with new pieces. Grief has a way of taking chunks of your normal and replacing it with something new and different. The trauma of losing my brother and losing my niece left me different in many ways. While, I’ll always struggle with the grief of them no longer being with me, It is important for me to acknowledge how the trauma of losing them inspired me live differently.

After my niece passed, I could not make sense of how her life could be cut short. I struggled with the thoughts of the many things that she never got to do. Those thoughts inspired me to begin living my life with intention. Although my niece’s time on earth was shortened, she truly lived. She did not allow her chronic illness to prevent her from enjoying life. She traveled, she graduated, she went to prom, she enjoyed good food and she enjoyed laughter. She loved to laugh even though laughter often triggered coughing associated with her lung condition. She laughed anyway. Her life inspired me to take more chances this year. I traveled places, I met new people and I even had an open house for my new business. I made the decision that in honor of her and my brother, I would not take my life for granted. I also made the decision that I would not take the people in my life for granted.

Life is indeed difficult. It’s a journey filled with twists, turns, hurdles and obstacles. Life is also valuable and remarkable. It is our responsibility to make the most of our life. It is our responsibility to live a life that is well lived. Each of us defines what a worthwhile life is and we all have separate definitions.

Remember when I described the dandelion. I mentioned how it can bloom almost anywhere. Even when the wind blows it, it does not know where it will land but wherever it lands, it blooms again. Be like the dandelion. Know that life will send winds your way and those winds will shake you and you may feel like you will never land. You will find ground again and just like the dandelion, you will continue to bloom.

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