My first experience with loss came when I was just 6 years old. My great grandma died. I remember seeing her in her hospital bed – so very frail. I have few memories of time spent with her but those that I do have are very tender. My favorite memory is the chocolate milk she would make for me whenever I came over.
My next real loss would come hard and deep. I was in 5th grade and my grandpa died suddenly of a heart attack. Just 3 weeks later, my uncle would die in a plane crash. That was a tough year for our family.
That would begin my journey of losing a great many special people in my life. I lost a couple of dear family friends to cancer. and a friend in high school was hit by a car and killed. Then the summer after I graduated from high school, a boy I had grown up with died in a drunk-driving accident. I took that very hard as well.
As a young adult I lost two cousins to suicide.
I lost other special people in my life as well.
I’ve seen what can happen in life. Maybe that’s why I’m so cautious and careful – never feeling too risky about things. Or maybe, just maybe that’s why I seem to feel such deep empathy when others are in pain. I can even feel pain for someone I’ve only heard or read about in the news! I think it’s because once you’ve been there… well… you just get it.
I am so thankful that my children haven’t really had to experience many deaths in their young lives yet. They are lucky. By the time I was their age I’d already lost so many cherished ones.
Loss is a part of life. Not a fun part – but a part just the same. In time, you DO heal and you do start to smile and laugh again. Yet you are shaped and formed by what has happened to you. It is up to you to decide if you will be colder, harder, and less willing to love and be loved … or if you will tell others how much you care about them more often and try to make the most of your every moment. It’s up to you to decide how you will spend your time and to what you will devote your life to.
We are here for a reason. It may seem a simple cliché but it’s so very true. We have just one life to give and live. And no matter how yours was shaped or formed – whether you endured great hardship, or loss as I did; you can make the most of your today and your now. You can use what happened to you to encourage and embrace others who are hurting. You can use the pain in your past and instead change it to courage and strength instead of loss and hurt.
We are all formed and shaped by something in our lives. I happen to think that it’s the losses in my own life that have added the beauty, dimension, and tenderness in my soul that wouldn’t have otherwise been there. I’d like to think that through great loss is great gain if you will only look for it. It’s in there to be found – that lesson and that jewel that only God can show you. May you find it and use it well.