FINDING JOY WHERE THERE WAS NONE

Above is a picture of a trail I was walking on this past Monday. As you can see, the trees are turning colors and many of them have already lost their leaves entirely. It is fall here in the city of West Allis Wisconsin where I live. This means temperatures are starting to dip, birds are packing their bags and flying south for the winter ( I am a little bit jealous but I will get over it ) Snow will soon cover the ground and there will be a few days when even stepping outside will be hazardous to your health. This is truly not the climate for me. I suffer from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is where feelings of emotional depression and hopelessness can creep in as the seasons change. In short, my mood tends to drop with the temperature. This has something to do with the bodies reduced exposure to sunlight they say. All I know is, for me, winter sucks.

As I continue to further my plan to become a best-selling author and move to San Diego, I am also on the lookout for ways to make living in a northern climate more bearable. My beautiful Margie bought me a “Happy Lamp” which mimics the sunlight. As a matter of fact, I am using it as I write this blog for all of you. I make sure to exercise daily, take vitamin D and do all of the other things they recommend. Still, at times especially after the holidays, I can find myself in a serious funk! As I was walking on this breezy fall day watching the leaves fall from the trees I noticed something off to the side of the trail – a mushroom growing right out of a tree!

As you can see in the picture above, it almost looked fake. My mother, who was walking with me at the time, laughed with me as we marveled at the strangeness of it. About a mile further down the trail I saw something else, a sign in the middle of some tall grass. This indicated there was some additional side trail we had not known about earlier. Although we choose not to explore it that day due to an over consumption of coffee prior to heading out on this walk, we certainly made a note of it. Here is the funny thing, neither of these things would have been noticeable if the leaves had been on the trees or if the grass had been full and green. It was only through the ‘death’ of the season that we discovered these things.

I began to ponder as we walked along. Thinking as I walked, which I so often do. This is true for the passing of the seasons, but it is also true in many other areas of our lives. When we lose a job, we not only develop a sudden appreciation for the reliable income that comes with a job we must go to everyday, but we also are forced to be creative in our search for new employment. We brush up both our resume and networking skills. Perhaps we consider taking a new course or starting that side business. We may even have an opportunity to pursue something more in line with our passions. It is only with the loss of the job that all of this is usually made possible.

Even the sad situation of losing someone we care about brings many things to light. Memories and things you may not have appreciated about that person. Love for, and the importance of, life itself. The value of the relationships we have with others. Making sure that we live our lives in such a way that we give the most to others while we are here. All of these very important, and often positive, events seem to occur after we lose someone close to us.

Could any of these things happen without the loss? Perhaps. I could venture off the path while I am walking and see what I find. We can always start our passion based business or brush up our resume while still employed. Perhaps there are also ways to more fully appreciate the fragility of life without losing someone who means so much to us. These things are possible, but are often only brought to light through a loss. It is a great lesson the change of seasons can teach all of us. Even a future best-selling author in a state with 9 months of winter and 3 months of very poor sledding could come to appreciate some aspect of winter.

The point here is that in many situations that we feel a loss of joy, there are gifts to be found. In every challenge there is the seed of equal to or greater opportunity. This winter, in addition to the steps I am already taking, I will look for additional gifts the cold weather reveals. Snuggling closer to the beautiful woman I have in my life. Appreciation for the wonderful meals I can enjoy without leaving my house. The simple pleasures of a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter day. That is not to say that I would pass on that ocean front villa in the islands, but until then I shall look for the joy where there once was none.

HOW I DEAL WITH DEATH

Today we are going to look at one of the hardest moments in life, the loss of a loved one. How can we possibly make it through this pain? I do not have any magical answers for you. What I can do is share what helps me and hope it will offer you some sort of solace in a difficult time. Death is one of the most difficult situations to handle in our lives. However, if we want to have the secrets to an amazing life, we need a plan to face the tough times as well as the easy times. Let me explain what I mean by facing the tough times.

One of the trickiest things about death is remembering it is indeed one of the most difficult subjects you will go through. That may sound ridiculous, but it is true. When going through the grieving process many people ask how they will return to being their ‘normal selves’. As if magically things will some how go back to being as if they were before. The bad news is they never will. You will always have that feeling of emptiness inside you. The closer you were to the person you lost, the bigger the hole will be. There will be times when you see something, or something happens that you will want to call them and share the news. Then the realization that they are gone will hit you all over again. There is no getting around it, that sucks. There are jokes that will come to mind that only you two would understand. There may be phrases that you shared, or even certain activities that will never be the same. I recall playing cards with my grandmother for hours. This often happened several days a week. I am not sure I know of many other people who would be willing to do that with me now. I recall heading up north to visit my great uncle with my grandfather. There were a million stories they shared about the family. Some of which are probably lost forever.

Now comes the healing portion of our post. Again, this is what I do. It may or may not resonate with you. Just as everyone grieves in their own way, everyone heals in their own way. With every person I lost there is something that reminds me of them as we mentioned in the first part of the post. When their memory is especially prevalent or I just happen to be missing them a great deal, I do one of two things. The first is do the very things we used to do. Yes, it makes me miss them, but I end up feeling connected to them in a strange sort of way. My mother and I play some of the same card games that my grandmother and I used to play. Recently, while visiting our friends tap room at their brewery, Margie sat down and joined us in some games. This makes my heart happy. My grandfather and I used to research different health and natural healing subjects. I even have some of his books. Continuing that research is one of the many ways I keep in touch with his memory and spirit. My Aunt Virginia and I both appreciated Native American traditions and music. These, along with a host of other subjects. When I read a book, or listen to some Native American music I feel extremely connected with her. Again, it does make me miss her and wish I had just one more day, as I am sure we all have felt about someone we lost.

The second thing I do really helps me to feel like I am close to, and honoring those who have passed away. I think of the particular light that person brought into the world. That light is now missing. Not only in my own life, but in the lives of everyone who came in contact with this person. That light needs to be carried on and replaced in their memory. Take my great uncle Ray, the one my grandfather and I used to visit. He was a social fellow who, on any given day, would still rather be in the woods talking to animals than in the city talking to people. Although I appreciate my fellow humans who grace the planet with me, I also love being in nature talking to animals. My grandmother liked to cook and I am excited to say I have a copy of her cookbook which is several inches thick. I am now blessed to have an amazing cook as the love of my life and hope to recreate some of these recipes to share with others. Speaking of my amazing love, we sadly lost her mother a little over two years ago. One of the lessons I will always remember from her is the importance of still “being your same sweet self” even if you haven’t had your coffee. I also do my best to honor her spirit by taking care of her ‘favorite daughter’ the best I can. I know she was Margie’s biggest fan and that my love misses having her support. With the help of her children and grandchildren we do the best we can to let her know how wonderful she is and how much she is loved.

These are some of the methods I use that help me understand that those I love are still around me. On occasion I donate to a cause they believed in or supported. I look at pictures and consider this amazing fact from the world of physics – at the smallest level everything is made of the same thing -energy. A fact about energy is it is never destroyed, it just changes form. To me, the people that we love do not cease to be, just have changed form to an energy that at present we are unable to communicate with. I am not even sure that is the truth. When the thought of a loved one comes into your mind and you feel that warm feeling in your chest, is that them? When some of the sad memories come to mind and you miss them all over again is that just their spirit reminiscing with you? I hope these methods I use may offer some help to all of you out there. I would love to hear things that help bring your heart a sense of peace in difficult times of loss. Let us all share with and help each other.

A STRANGE OPPORTUNITY

It amazes me how life presents us opportunities that we routinely miss. Misfortune, challenges and pain. Those are three things nobody likes to have in their life and things that everybody does have in their lives. When you are going through something it is often very hard to see the positive in it. Whether that be a heartbreak, job loss, loss of a loved one or a host of other unpleasant situations, we can put them to use for us and others.

This is the very method I used to put the situation of getting the Coronavirus to work for myself and for others. When we go through something challenging, there are 3 ways in which it can be turned from a negative to a positive. Are you interested? I hope so. If we can turn the negatives in our life into positives, can you imagine how that would improve the quality of our life? It would make it, dare I say, amazing! Let us take a look at them one at a time. By using even one of these 3 secrets we can begin to put life to work for us instead of being at the mercy of life.

The first secret is learning and growing. People have one of two relationships with challenges and failures. Either they view it as the end. They lost. It won’t work. Things such as that. Then there are others who view it as a stepping stone to success. As Thomas Edison continued to fail in his attempts to find something to use as a filament in the light bulb, he remarked, “I have not failed, I just discovered another way not to make a light bulb.” Even something as painful as the loss of a loved one can teach us many things. It can help us discover ways to help us heal our heart. It can deepen our spiritual connection. It can even show us who will be there for us when we are at our lowest. Lessons are most often not fun to learn, but they help us grow and develop more than any other period of our life. We always learn more from our trials than our successes.

The second thing we can do is what today’s picture speaks of. We can inspire others by the way we handle things. When I shared my virus Journey with everyone it helped me as much as I helped others. On the days I did not feel like getting up and writing a post or shooting a video for my YouTube channel, I thought about the people watching my journey. Often, things are not that public.

We can use the fact people are watching us to motivate us. I am always on the lookout for ways I can improve and be the best man I can be in my relationship with my lady Margie. One of the many ways I use to stay motivated is that I remind myself how many people are watching how I treat her. Her family, her children, our friends and even those who might want to take my place in her heart. I would say at least once a week someone comments on our relationship. Usually, these are compliments about how loving we are. To me they serve not only as a reward for working so hard on our relationship, but a reminder that her and I do not live in a vacuum. People are watching.

The last positive thing we want to discuss about challenges is this – it provides you tools. When you go through something it gives you skills you can then use to help others going through the same situation. It gives you credibility. When someone is troubled, they will be more likely to listen to someone who has actually went through what they are going through. Following this equation, the more things you go through in life, the more you can help others. It is almost as if every challenge is a painful gift of sorts.

These three things may not take the pain or feeling of loss out of a situation in the moment, but they will help in time. Here is an added bonus – the more you use these three things, the more they become a part of you. When they become a part of you, the time it takes to go from pain to learning, inspiring and teaching becomes quicker and quicker. In my own life when something bad happens it has become so quick that I catch myself thinking, “Well this sucks but I will be able to use it for something good.” I would love to hear what you use to turn the negatives in your life into positives. The more ideas we share the more we can help each other!

ASSUMING A SMILE

Today’s motivational thought come courtesy of my dear friend Kurt. That is him and his words in the picture above. When I read what he had to say it brought a very important reminder to light.

When we think of bringing joy to and helping others we usually focus our efforts on those in what we might view as compromising situations. That is important because those are the people who need it the most. Helping at a meal program, bringing items to the hopeless or reaching out to those who seem to be in pain are some of the most noble acts we can do.

Limiting our actions to just those people can be a mistake. Some of those who need our help the most can hide it the best. I recall a gentleman I worked with in the post office. This gentleman came to work every day with a smile and a joke. There were three of us who often worked together in this small office. We would share stories and on occasion we would all share a cocktail after work. One of the funniest men I have ever worked with. After being transfered for several months, I stopped back to help one day and noticed that gentleman was not there. I inquired as to whether he retired or simply had the day off. I was informed the found him in his basement. He had hung himself and left behind several children.

Never would I have imagined this man would have been suffering so greatly on the inside. Very few coworkers have ever made me laugh so hard and so often. The effect on the other gentleman we worked with was devastating. They had worked together more often and were far closer. I am sure that man felt that he should have known something was wrong. The truth is you would have never guessed.

This is the story of more people than we would dare to imagine. Although they may not be to the point of taking their own lives, their smile could be hiding a great deal of pain. That is why it is important to remember to treat everyone with respect and compassion. Let even the happiest of your friends know that you are there for them and that they have a safe place to vent with you. It may mean more than you know. I may just save someone’s life.¬†

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REGRET CAN BE YOUR SUPER POWER!

On this blog we do things to try to limit regret in our lives. Regret is one of the worst emotions to have. At a funeral the toughest emotion to get over is not sadness, but regret. “I wish I would have….” feeling. Part of the¬†Secret to an Amazing Life¬†is doing less things you regret and regretting less things. If you live life in the best manner you can, you have less to regret.

Despite our best efforts, we all end up with some regret in our lives. Those of us who really work hard to be the best we can be, can have the most difficulty getting over regret. As I often do, let me share a personal example with you. When I reflect on relationships I have had with people in the past I can sometimes cringe at the memory of how I acted. In some cases the person’s actions may have not been the best either. I recall a boss I had when I first started at the Post Office that was always belittling. You could understand acting in a disrespectful or defensive nature to someone who did not respect you. Although their actions may be disrespectful, it does not excuse us from being the same.

As with all of us, I have had friendships that have been damaged. Maybe even some that have been lost due to things that were said and done between both parties. Special moments have been ruined or at least dampened due to behavior. Upon reflection I would become frustrated with myself. Then I heard something from Les Brown, “If you wouldn’t do the same thing today, then you are convicting an innocent person.” It was then I turned regret on its head. Instead of avoiding the sting of regret I put it to work for me. Whenever I am tempted to act in a manner beneath the best version of me I pause and remember the outcome of a time I did so and regret it. I ask myself, “Do you really want to feel like that again?” Especially if the pain is strong enough, it is enough to put me back on the right track. Regret has done more to shape my current behavior than most other things.

It is not just for keeping you from acting like a social degenerate. Regret can motivate you to do the right thing when you lack the inner drive. I recently read a story of a father in the UK who couldn’t go on a ride with his son because he was too large to fit into the cart. He used the sadness in his son’s face as well as his own embarrassment to lose almost half of his weight. Having a painful memory like that not only drove him to lose the weight but also allowed him to keep it off.

Many of you may recall the story of not going to the rummage event with my grandfather before he passed. It really wasn’t enjoyable for me at the time, but it really brought him joy. Now when I know there are things that others enjoy or that bring them happiness, I focus on the fact that I am helping the one I love. That is not to say I am constantly putting myself in a position to do things I dislike, for that would be a regret too, but doing the occasional thing I am not thrilled about in order to bring a smile to the one I love is not the worst in the world.

I encourage you to make a list of your worst regrets in life. This may be painful, but think of how you can use them for motivation to do better in the future. 

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TIME TO REFLECT

Today is the first day of a new year and a new decade. I want to thank all of you for continuing to be a part of this online community to better ourselves. Together, sharing with each other we can change our world for the better. If we all continue to do this, the world as a whole will become a more beautiful place for us all. We just have to take care of our little corner of the world and we can be a part of a global change.

On a more personal level, I want to talk about something we all face. In the past year we may have lost someone close to us. Relationships end, people pass away. As the writer Robert Frost said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” Despite the ends I have mentioned, our lives go on. The loss may not have happened even in the past year, but as the calendar turns we are reminded that we face another year without someone we wish was by our sides.

In this way, a time of fresh perspectives and possibilities can be veiled in sadness. How can we approach this? To remember a very obvious, but important fact – we are still here. Our very presence means two very important things. First, we have the ability to collect and create new and wonderful memories in the new year. Those we love that are still here can bless our lives in ways we cannot imagine. Something I have learned since my grandfather passed away, and with every loss since, is those who are gone can also continue to teach us even though they have not been with us physically for quite some time. I cannot count how many times I have thought of something my grandfather, or someone else I lost, has told me and I finally understand something they were trying to tell me so many years ago. It is for this very reason I am so grateful to have had so many people in my life that were amazing that I feel their loss to this very day. That may sound like a statement full of contradiction, but it is quite the contrary.

When you miss someone so greatly, it is because you loved just as great. They brought something special into your life. That could have been a supportive love. It could have been encouragement. It could have been the sharing of many happy moments spent together. That is something to be truly grateful for – having a person that is so special in your life, even if it is not as long as we would have desired. Those memories are gifts we can take with us into the new year as well. It is a way of keeping that person in our hearts as the years pass by.

That brings me to the second point that our presence means. This, by far, is the most important thought to carry into the new year. The fact that we are still hear means that we can bring joy and blessings to those who love us. One day we will return to the dust from which we came as well. Those that love us will be missing us and wishing we were there with them into the new year. The important thing to remember is that time is not now. We still have the responsiblity and the pleasure to share life and love with those we care about the most. Even with complete strangers. We have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of all of those we touch.

After my heart problem was brought to my attention, I realize now more than ever that every year, every day and even every moment is a blessing and more importantly an opportunity. In my condition I could be gone tomorrow. Armed with this knowledge I do my best to live each day with the fullest. That is my plan for the new year and one I want to share with all of you.

What are your secrets to living life to the fullest? Share with all of us so we all can make 2020 the most amazing year yet.

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A DEDICATION TO AMY

I realize reading a blog post on a Sunday here is most unusual. We are going to take a break from our gratitude list to discuss a very special friend of mine РAmy. I had met Amy through my lovely lady, Margie. Right from the beginning, Amy and I clicked. We had many conversations  about life, friendship and philosophy. Throughout it all, Amy was always grateful and kind. You can see this in the picture of our messages above.

Amy had a host of health issues she battled. These both restricted her movement and caused her a great deal of pain. She never let that stop her from fulfilling her passion of creating hand-made stuffed animals. Margie purchased a penguin for me that she had made. The quality was amazing. Amy created every animal conceivable from buffalo to mythical creatures such as dragons. In doing so, she brought joy into so many people’s lives. One of the many great things about

Amy is she was always open about her struggles and how she was facing them. I have a Facebook group where people come to share what inspires them and the struggles they may be facing getting there. It is a great online community that helps everyone who is a part of it. When Amy joined she gave herself over completely. She not only shared her struggles so that others may learn from her, but she listened and did her best to help others with their struggles as well. In doing this she became friends with many of the members including my frind Cari, another amazing caring soul. I can only imagine how difficult it may have been for Amy to do this while she was going through her own struggles but she did. Many people would be focused on  and consumed by their own pain and unwilling or unable to comfort others, not Amy.

It made me proud to have a friend that was so giving in a time where she had the right to be a little selfish. She made all of us proud with her creations that will give joy to the lives of all of them who have the privilege to have one. I am sure everyone who recieved one, much like myself, had an additional bit of happiness in their lives.

Amy also was kind enough to let me know how much my work affected her and how grateful she was for that. Many of my readers never say a single thing in regards to how my work may play a part in their lives. That is ok as long as they are reading and it is offering something to make their lives better. Amy, however, would take the time out of her busy day to let me know how she was usuing what I wrote about and how it both worked, and what did not work for her. I was always so grateful to her for hearing this and told her so. It makes what I do fulfilling. It is also my inspiration to keep writing and bringing all the material to the world that I do. It is people like Amy who keep me inspired to do so.

Sadly, last week we lost Amy. She passed away unexpectedly. While she was here she made a great difference in many people’s lives. She brought joy and happiness with her creative creations she shared with the world. She brought feelings of empathy, love and compassion to all of those she touched in our online community. She also brought a great feeling of value and appreciation to this writer. Amy will be missed greatly. It is my sincere hope that she knew how much she brought to the world and how much she helped every life she touched.

With the loss of those who know and care about, I find there is always a lesson. In Amy’s case I feel there are a few. First, use the gifts you have to bring joy to others. Whether that is sewing amazing animals, baking a great cake, singing a song or any other talent you may have. Second, is to offer those you meet who are struggling with a sense of understanding and compassion. Lastly, is to let those around you who affect you positively know. In expressing your gratitude you offer a great gift that means the world to the other person. I know I will miss these gifts Amy brought to the world but will do my best to instill them myself. I encourage you to do the same as a dedication to Amy.

IT CAN BE A GLORIOUS TIME… IT CAN BE A DIFFICULT TIME

Halloween has just past and the seasons are beginning to change. Here in the city I live it they have not only¬†begun¬†to change, it would seem we went right from summer into winter. What this points to is the holiday season fast approaching. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or any other holiday this season is a time to gather with friends and family to celebrate. It does not matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other faith. It doesn’t even matter if you do not follow any particular faith at all. Usually you will be attending some gathering.

These times can recharge our spirit and sense of belonging. It can, however, do the opposite for many. If you find yourself living away from family and friends you can experience a feeling of longing and being left out. Those who have lost love ones can often be reminded of the pain of that lost most around the holidays. While partaking in long-held traditions the feeling of emptiness can be magnified. Maybe you have recently went through the heartache of ending a relationship. Not having that certain someone to celebrate with can cause your heart to break again. Watching one of those fabulous Hallmark movies, or groups of other enjoying their holiday season can leave you feeling down, even though we think it should have us feeling joyous.

There are two points I would like to make with this point. The first is to not only understand, but be compassionate these feelings are what some of those closest to you may be feeling. They may be doing their best to ‘put on a happy face’ and make it through the holiday festivities. They may be worried about bringing everyone else down because of their sadness. There may even be feelings of guilt because they do not feel as happy as they should. We must treat each other with a special kind of compassion and respect during this holiday season. Just because someone is wearing a holiday smile or a silly holiday sweater doesn’t mean there is not some pain and sadness behind that. We must also remember that many times there is nothing we can do to help them, but just be there to listen and even offer a hug.

The second point, what we can do if we find ourselves to be the ones with sadness this holiday season? We can also practice compassion…with ourselves. We must give ourselves permission to experience our feelings. We must be brave enough to reach out to others for help. That could be a friend, a family member or even a grief counseling group. It is a gift we can give ourselves this holiday season. The grief and sadness you feel may never go away, but it is important to know that you are not alone in feeling this way. There are those who can listen. There are those who can help you cope and be with you throughout the process. I encourage everyone to keep these things in mind during this season.

As I write this, it is the final day of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This is a holiday celebrated in Mexico. It is the celebration of our loved ones who have passed on. It is not a solomn holiday but one filled with joy and a feeling their relatives are still with them in spirit. This is little consolation to some, but may be a helpful way of looking at it for others. Memories, although they can be bittersweet, are gifts from those who have passed on. There are many ways to connect to others. If your sadness stems from having to be away from your family this holiday, try reaching out with a phone call, skype, text, email or even an old-fashioned letter. As you write you are with those you miss. (as a side note this can also work if someone has passed on) Just healing over the end of a relationship? Honor those feelings and discover new and wonderful traditions you can begin. It is a fresh start and the birth of a whole new way to celebrate.

In closing, this holiday season remember to be kind and compassionate to everyone…including yourself.¬†

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DON’T WASTE IT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This picture really sums things up quite well. Here is something to think about, the hourglasses in this picture could easily be reversed. As I was preparing to write this I learned a close childhood friend of mine passed away on his 41st birthday. It would be nice if we all had hourglasses or some other sign to know when our time was about to expire.  Here is the thing that is rather sad, as people see that your time is drawing to a close they are more likely to tell you they love you, spend quality time with you and share emotionally with you.

Why is that sad? It is sad because we should not wait until the sand in our hourglass is running out to treat each other that way. It is easy to remember when your 80 year-old relative is in the hospital, but like the passing of my friend shows, it can be any time. Treating each other with dignity, compassion and respect should be a daily activity.

Here is another thought to ponder, not only are we unable to know when the sands of time are running low for those we love, but we never know how much sand we have left ourselves. Try asking yourself every morning if today was my last day what would I want to tell those I love? In what ways would I go out of my way to spread love? The crazy thing about asking that question is one day you will be right.

 

 

 

THE GIFT OF GRIEF

The gift of grief? This sounds like one of those cliché book titles you may see as you make your way through the bookstore. If you are reading this while going through a moment of grief,  it may be a sentiment you are tempted to give a middle finger to. What gift could possibly be gained in a feeling of such tremendous loss and pain? What is there to possibly be gained by having part of you forever taken from you? How can we call the loneliness and emptiness that we feel upon waking, or when we are alone in our beds a gift? Is there anything good about those random moments of sadness we experience when we witness something that reminds us of the loved one we lost?

I am not here to tell you grief is a good thing. It sucks. It is not something any of us would choose to feel, nor anything we wish others to feel. What I am here to say is that there are things that only grief can teach us. There are things that our hearts may never know, or at the very least, never fully appreciate without grief. This, in its own way also sucks. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go through life without ever having to experience loss or grief? Why can’t we all learn everything we need to know without having to experience these emotions? That is not how life works, unfortunately.

While there is no correct way to grieve, or time limit for grieving, there are some things that are universal when it comes to grief. Lessons that grief teaches us all regardless of faith, race or nationality. This was brought home to me the other day. Last year I had lost two aunts in one week’s time. The hospice they were at along with a funeral home, hosted a ‘group memorial’ for everyone who had lost someone. As we pulled up to the building we noticed the parking lot was full. Upon entering we sat in two of the last seats available. You were given a program in which all of the names of the deceased were listed. There were over 100 names. They included every nationality, every race and as they read details of the individuals, it became clear every age as well.

I noticed all of these very different people were experiencing the same thing – grief. We may not have agreed on politics, religion or even what sports team to cheer for, but at that moment all of us could relate to the feeling of sadness and loss we felt. In this way, grief can be a common denominator. No matter where you live in the world, what faith you follow or what sports team you like, death will visit you in your lifetime.

Grief also teaches us humility. In the parking lot you could see there were people who drove very expensive sports cars and those who drove cars that were barely moving. Both of these people had experienced loss. Money cannot save you from grief. It does not matter if you are a CEO or if you work in the mail room, grief will visit you.

Grief, in its own odd way, teaches us the value of life. There were those who were quite young that passed away from auto accidents or perfectly healthy individuals that were suddenly taken from cancer or other terrible health conditions. Loss teaches us to value the lives and times with those in our life. We may never know when we may loose them. It is often after a loss of someone we love that we are tempted to call those we love just to tell them we love them. We go home to hug our children or our spouse and hold them extra tight, grateful we still have them to hold.

Grief also teaches us the value of our own lives. When I was diagnosed last year with several heart problems it made me realize how fleeting life could be. It motivated me to be the best man that I can be. Every night I make sure that the woman in my life knows how beautiful she is to me and how much I love her because I may not have that chance to tell her tomorrow. My second book had been in the works for five years leading up to that point. I was diagnosed in June, it was finished by September. Knowing intellectually that we only have so much time on this earth is motivating, but feeling that emotionally is far more motivating.

Grief and loss suck. There is no arguing that. It is through grief, however, that life becomes so precious. Memories become treasures more valuable than gold. Every blooming flower and song of a bird become a gift to be appreciated. Loved ones and the love we share with them become our most valuable possessions. Our time becomes the most important asset we have.

Grief is terrible. Grief is hard and grief is terribly personal. Still, even in the darkest of times we are given many gifts. Let us not waste our grief, but let it color our life. Not just with sadness, although that will always be a part of our loss, but let it also intensify our love. Let our grief allow us to appreciate the beauty in the little things, and understand they really are the big things. Let us not only treasure our memories of those we have lost, but let us be motivated to create memories with those who are still here so that when we are gone we may leave with them the gift that those who have went before us have shared with us.