Today is my birthday and as I celebrate another year of my life, I reflect on all of the great things that I have experienced so far, and I think about what I want for the many years ahead.

Other than the date of my birth, this day marks another significant time in my life.  It was nine years ago, on the day after my birthday, my son, Eric, passed away.  I celebrate that day too.

I rejoice for all of the countless opportunities that Eric brought to me.

Firstly, I want to be up front and honest.  Life with Eric was no “piece of cake”, pardon my pun.  Almost every night was a sleepless night.  Every day was filled with uncertainty, worry and tireless concern. Whether it was at home, at school or with health care services, there were endless debates, battles, and disagreement.  Life was a continual uphill climb.

But that’s not what I remember.

What sticks with me are the other things; the happy times and the deeper-rooted lessons about life that I have realized along the way.  Here is what I have discovered…

  1. Your happiness is up to you and only you. Family is important and being a parent is one of the highest-ranking positions a person could hold.  However, no matter how busy or demanding your family life, it is vital, it is imperative, that you do something for yourself.  Whether it’s a job, a volunteer activity, continuing education, a book club, whatever it is, do something that is important for your own well-being.
  2. Your identity is fundamental. You are an individual.  You have likes, dislikes, skills, talents and abilities.  You have a distinct personality.  Embrace who you are and be confident to bring “you” to all that you do.
  3. Time heals if you take action. You’ve heard the phrase, “time heals all wounds”.  Time doesn’t heal anything.  Your actions are what help you to heal or recover.  Whether it be simply talking with a friend, practicing mindfulness, embarking upon a hobby, or learning a new skill, take action.   When things don’t go as planned or you experience a sudden and unexpected change, think about what you can do that will help you to adapt?
  4. Success can be defined in many ways. A former schoolmate once commented that they saw me as someone who would be successful in life.  What does that mean?  Is it a job, financial wealth, or a perfect body?  Or is it something else?  So many people go through daily struggles; some can’t walk or talk, yet they feel successful.  Others would look at them and say that their life isn’t successful.  What does success in life mean to you?  What is truly at the core of your fulfillment?
  5. Being human is good. From cosmetic surgery to performance enhancing drugs to artificial intelligence, not to mention the speed at which we can access information, there is so much emphasis on not being human.  Of course, we continue to evolve but what are we truly striving for? As we go beyond our humanness, what is the cost?   The truth is, we are human, we are not machines. Being human is good.  Embrace it.
  6. Focusing on yourself is the answer. All too often we hear people talking about others; they criticize, they blame and they want them to change.  Rather than paying so much attention to what others are doing or not doing, simply focus on your own actions and on what you want to do.  What are your values and your passions and how can they influence your action?  You have the power to grow and discover new things about yourself and by doing so, you may have an influence on others.  It will be up to them to take their own action.  Focus on yourself.
  7. Sharing will help us survive. We have been given such an opportunity in life; a chance to help one another and to lift each other up.  We have been given natural resources and an earth, yet in our pursuit of excellence, we seem to be destroying that.  So many of us compete rather than cooperate.   There is a time when we will all require the assistance of someone else.  Isn’t it time to focus on what we can share with one another, rather than what we take away?

I am so thankful for having the chance to share my life with Eric.  He brought so much to me and our family.  We continue to live with him in our heart and wish that we carry forward all the valuable lessons that he gave to us, each and every day.

~ Lisa