The past few weeks have been unpredictably challenging. Actually when I say weeks, I mean months. And really, I mean year. While this year has been filled with so many wonderful memories (can’t forget the fact that I married my husband in August!) it has also been unpredictable and surprising in many of the worst ways.
2017 started out normally, but only a few weeks in we lost my cousin completely unexpectedly. She was 24 years old, the mother of two babies under the age of two. Her passing shocked my family and put us through something that I would wish upon no one. Recovering from this loss is still a work in progress, but we finally started to experience some closure as time began to pass and we rounded out the first year of finding a new normal without her.
Just a few months ago, in the beginning of December, we lost my grandma unexpectedly. She was in her 80s, but still incredibly active and healthy. She traveled the world and jumped on trampolines, putting many of my own excuses to shame. Despite her age, her passing was very unexpected. It was tough hurdle for my family to get past, and such a devastating loss for the world. She left behind quite a legacy.
A few weeks after her funeral, my uncle landed himself in the hospital for what we thought would be a temporary stay. A few days and many tests later, we discovered that he had stage four cancer.
He decided not to undergo treatment, and went about creating a list of all the things he wanted to do in his last year. His attitude was admirable, and his actions were inspiring. Unfortunately, a few weeks into his plan, as him and his wife headed to the airport to begin his list of activities, he landed himself in the hospital again. After some time of treatment, he decided that he was going to fight the cancer. We were all happy to hear that he was going to fight this ugly disease, and confident in his strength to overcome the challenges that were headed his way.
Our happiness for him was short lived, as he found out a few days later that he was no longer a candidate for chemotherapy. Time flew by so quickly, and before anyone knew it he was being placed in hospice care. What began as a statement of only having one or two days to live, turned into 68 days.
We lost my Uncle on Valentine’s Day this month, another loss that shook this family who was just beginning to heal. What an incredible fight my uncle had given. For 68 days he was the epitome of strength, surviving through the unimaginable, things that should have beaten him down much sooner. He powered through many of the absolute worst living conditions within his body. His life ended with the respect of every single member of his family. Despite our differences, he brought us all together to mourn and weep and share our love with one another.
These times really challenge you. Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, something unimaginable happens. Your world is shaken, making you question everything you’ve ever believed.
I wonder so often why terrible things like this happen to good people.
Why do some of the best suffer the most? It is a question I will no doubt ask many more times throughout my life, but never find the answer.
Challenging times like these make me feel helpless. Helpless, standing around watching the ones I love the most suffer. Helpless, knowing that no matter what I do, the outcome will not change. Knowing that the sadness I feel is nothing compared to what so many others are experiencing.
In times of darkness, it seems that everywhere you look, there is more darkness.
No matter how desperately you try to escape it, the darkness finds it’s way into your life while you are at your weakest.
Life isn’t easy – I get it, believe me. I know this. I never expected it to be. But times like these make you really question why you are here, what you are doing, and how you can help. I know that I am going to make it through this time of sadness, but there are so many others who might not be as sure.
My message is this:
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
For anyone going through a tough time, you are strong. Whether you are grieving, lonely, or helpless – you can get through this. Things will get better. I know this. You have every right to feel lost, and nothing that anyone can do will take the pain away. Life is not fair. It is not fair that people have to feel this way, and it is not fair what you are going through. This grief is yours. No one else understands it, and no one else truly knows the pain you are experiencing. But I do know this: there is a lot of joy in this world. And when you are ready for it, it’s there, eager to start making it’s way back into your life.
But you have to let it in.
This world can be a terrifying place. The violence that is erupting sure makes it hard to believe that things will ever get better. When you are experiencing a tragedy of your own, it seems that everywhere you look you find something more devastating. Just when you think you’ve found a way to let the light shine back in, you are stopped in your tracks and forced to start all over.
But there is something good out there. There’s something worth fighting for. You’ll find it at funerals, on your darkest days. When you are surrounded by grief and unimaginable sorrow, you are also surrounded by something even more powerful.
Human beings have an amazing capacity for love. Not just with family members or friends. With complete strangers. There are people out there who are desperate to help out. They want to share their joy, help others find hope. Hope is a powerful tool, one of which we will all find ourselves in need of at some point in our lives. Hope in the fact that the ones we lost are in a better place. Hope in the fact that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Hope in the fact that joy will find us again. That we will find joy in the blue skies or the abnormally warm winter day. Joy in the brownies you had for dessert or the smell of flowers on your table. Joy in the funny show on TV or sleeping in on a Saturday. Joy is out there. And in those times when your world is shaken and you can’t find joy, you are not alone. There are people out there, strangers even, who would drop what they are doing to help you find happiness.
The world is filled with horrific and terrible things. Wonderful people experiencing the greatest tragedies. But if you look really closely, amongst those tragedies you’ll also find some of the greatest glimpses of hope. Strangers helping strangers get back on their feet, sharing kind words, or lending a hand. One huge family coming together, forgetting their differences to celebrate a life.
Hope in the fact that tomorrow will be better.
Don’t be afraid to let light shine in through the darkness. It is always there, you just have to see it.
Hang in there, friend.