Some people are born grateful. I was not one of those people. I spent most of my years in a self-absorbed haze, not thinking about anyone else or what they were going through. I was like Mike Seaver on that episode of Growing Pains where he was shocked when the school bus still drove to school even though he wasn’t going. It was all about me. And then everything changed. My niece, who was born with a rare metabolic disorder, got very sick. And even though I had known about her disorder her whole life, and that it would one day take a toll on her body and ultimately it would cause us to lose her, it didn’t seem real. My sister, who is the bravest and most compassionate, kind, and caring person, had told us all about the disorder and what the prognosis would be, but it always seemed so far off that I never really thought it would happen. And then it happened. We lost the most amazing, special, pure, beautiful person that any of us have ever known and every single thing in my life changed. It was like I had been sleeping my entire life and I was finally awake. The heartbreak that I experienced was like none other that I had ever imagined. It left an emptiness inside of me that was inescapable. None of us knew how we would get through it- except my sister. Through everything, she remained the loving, caring, strong person that she’s always been. She put everyone else before her, as she always has, and she taught us all to to be GFL. She taught us that instead of wallowing in our grief, that we should remember the good times we had with my niece- how much fun it was to see her smile and hear her laugh, and to celebrate her. She taught us to look at the world around us and see all the beauty that exists that we so often take for granted and to live life and appreciate every single moment. And that’s what being truly grateful for life is about. Because we’ll all experience things in our lives that will break our hearts and level us to our core. But getting through these moments in a positive way is what makes life worth living.
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