I’m a huge believer in signs. As in, every time I see a cardinal? I think it’s a loved one, who has passed away, saying hello. Dimes hold the same sentiment and when I need reassurance, the right song comes on at the right time.
My cousin passed away a few weeks ago and it’s been a hard and dark time for my family and I. The kids are navigating their first loss and I’m seeing a whole lot of different behaviours and thoughts come through. I haven’t been functioning at my best and I’m short-tempered and emotional. The tears are coming more often and for longer as her loss is now feeling real. In fact, I threatened one of my kids (empty, of course) to take away Christmas because we are just functioning on THAT level right now. My flippin’ watch keeps telling me to breathe due to my anxiety causing me to hold my breath, without even realizing I’m doing so. I hate cancer, I really do. I just can’t make sense of why she had to be the one who loses her life prematurely to a disease that ravaged through her entire body. Where is the fairness that she had to endure that much pain? Our lives aren’t as joyful as they once were and the grief is hitting us sporadically and deeply, hence the lack of writing. Our last few weeks have been full of a lot of reminiscing and I can still remember my childhood memories with her, as if they happened yesterday. It seems to always take a death to realize how short life is and how we need to fill our days with the things we love and to do these things with conviction and grace.
Although it’s been a darker couple of weeks, I’m smiling right now. And I’m smiling because I’ve been sitting here, typing away, about just how much I’m grieving my cousin and I look up, and there she is. A beautiful, red, cardinal- tucked away in the corner of our backyard just waiting to be seen. (and for all you bird scholars, I KNOW male cardinals are red… but let me have this) I can’t even tell you the comfort it just brought me. Sort of like the other week when I was vacuuming and looked down on the floor only to see a Mabel’s Label with her last name on it. How it got there? I have no idea. But- it felt like chicken noodle soup on a cold and rainy day and helped me realize that she is no longer in pain. These moments are the ones that I will let fill me with warmth and fuel me with light. My dear cousin, you will be a driving force in my day-to-day life, and you will be one of the reasons I continually do better. You inspire me to be my best self.
I think we can all agree that 2020 has overstayed it’s welcome and we’re ready for a lot more sunshine and socialization. As introverted as I am, you better believe I’ll be celebrating every occasion when this is all done. In the same breath, I need to be grateful for this craptacular year because the biggest growth happens in the hardest of times. Aside from my cousin’s passing, 2020 has brought me the opportunity to overcome a personal crisis and ensure my choices line up with my values. A dear friend and I wrote a book together (coming for ya in 2021) and are working on something to help single parents. We couldn’t have done any of this if it weren’t for the pandemic. 2020 has allowed me to let go of things that weren’t serving me in order to prepare and receive something better because honestly, in a year where everything tends to be going down the gutter, you may as well just suck out all the poison, even if it hurts. I’m setting the intention to finish this year as strongly as I possibly can and to stop the negative attribution to this year. Life is literally just a string of events and I am choosing to stop blaming all the bad on 2020. I’m not losing another minute of my life to the misery of this year and although I will hit walls of exhaustion, there’s always something to be grateful for, as cliché as it sounds. And I choose to practice more patience because there are going to be many moments when grief will hit myself or a loved one and when that time hits, it’s my job to acknowledge and validate the feeling because life is hard.
But we can do hard things.
And cousin, I miss you more than you know. I promise to do one thing a day that makes me happy and to fill my house with the infectious laughter you filled our lives with. I love you.
‘I am stronger because I had to be,
I’m smarter because of my mistakes,
Happier because of the sadness I’ve known,
And now wiser because I learned.’