I will never forget the day that I found out my Uncle Dan passed away. He had struggled with alcoholism for many years, although I never fully understood what that meant when I was younger. I only ever knew him as my fun, loving, joke-making, noogie-giving Uncle whom I adored. I can still picture his smile and hear his laughter to this day. My Uncle was a wonderful man, and I miss him dearly. He was the father of the strongest, most resilient woman I know.
When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.Jaeda DeWalt
His youngest daughter and I were on vacation at the beach with our family in Delaware. We were only teenagers at the time. She is two years older than me so she drove. We had just returned to my parent’s campsite to have some lunch after spending the morning at the beach.
I remember my mom was unusually quiet. When we asked where my dad was she responded that he was out riding his bike. It seemed a little strange because my parents usually go on bike rides together, but I didn’t think anything of it at the time. She kept busy doing other things around the campsite while we ate.
When my father returned from his bike ride, we were sitting down at the picnic table inside the blue screened-in tent. I remember he entered first with my mother following afterward. He had a very serious and solemn look on his face, and I immediately knew that something was wrong.
They stood at the opposite side of the table facing us as he addressed my cousin. I don’t recall specifically every word that was said, but I do remember him saying that he had received a phone call that morning from his middle brother. As he spoke to her I could hear the sadness in his voice. “Your father passed away.” There was a brief painful pause followed by her response, “Why don’t you just say he died!”
The only comparable imagery that comes to mind is when there is an explosion in a war movie, and everything goes white while all you can hear is a loud ringing noise with muffled shouts in the background. That’s how it felt. I sat there in shock as my heart sank. It felt as though time had slowed down while the pounding in my chest steadily increased. I didn’t know what to do or say so I just continued eating my sandwich in disbelief as I felt tears welling up in my eyes.
I remember my parents attempting to console her and my mom trying to hug her as she left the tent. After she walked away, they hugged me instead. I felt numb. I wanted things to go back to how they were just moments ago when we were laughing and enjoying the beautiful morning at the beach. Now life as we knew it had changed forever. The sun was shining, but a shroud of darkness, grief, and emptiness hung over us all that day.
I can not imagine how difficult and heartbreaking it was for my dad to be the one who had to break the news to his niece about his oldest brother’s death. Nothing can prepare you for that. She was angry, and rightfully so. We all need time to cope with loss and grief in different ways. I ended up vomiting all of my lunch afterward. It’s strange how the body physically reacts to immense stress, grief, and emotional trauma.
She is now helping so many people on the front lines and saving countless lives as a doctor in the E.R. What an incredibly strong, determined, and resilient individual to turn that loss into her driving force behind what she dedicates her life to every day in her career.
If I could say something to her at that moment now it would be that I know this is terrible, and you don’t deserve to be experiencing this grief or to be feeling this incomparable pain. But because of this moment, you will go on to become the strongest and most resilient woman I know. You are a beautiful, incredible, genuinely wonderful individual. I have the utmost respect for you, and I along with so many others am richer for having you in our lives.
Whether you know it or not, I have always looked up to you ever since we were children. You are the closest person that I have ever had to a sister. Thank you for being an amazing role model and showing me that it is never impossible to overcome any obstacle. Your success has demonstrated the power behind believing in yourself while achieving your goals and dreams in life. Your ambition and resilient outlook will not allow anything to defeat you.
You are amazing, a true inspiration, and a blessing to everyone fortunate enough to share your presence. I’m in awe of your ability to seek out and discover new experiences around the world, touching countless lives wherever you go. I admire your wanderlust and your fearlessness — your ability to find joy in the little things. I aspire to be more like you. We will laugh until we cry again and use every breath we have to make a positive, lasting impact on this world. On behalf of every life you have impacted, we are all so unbelievably proud of you, and I know that he is too.
It goes without saying, all medical professionals are our heroes during this time of the global pandemic. But she was my hero long before anyone even knew about COVID-19. Even though you may not know someone personally, please be mindful and show kindness to them regardless of what you may be going through.
More than likely, they are experiencing some internal struggle of their own that you know nothing about. That person is someone’s daughter, son, mother, father, wife, husband, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, grandmother, grandfather, cousin and so much more. They have value, and they deserve to be valued. Do not feel afraid or ashamed to reach out for help if you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction or mental illness.
If you are unsure of where to start, I recommend reading my first post on Rebuilding Yourself. Now is not the time to be judgemental. We must lift each other up by any means necessary. If you have the opportunity to brighten someone’s day, by all means, do it. Something as simple as a kind word or gesture that costs you nothing could make a world of difference in another person’s life. Allow yourself the time to grieve, and when you are ready — channel your energy into something positive.
Be a beacon. Show an example worth following through your actions. Be a hero in someone else’s eyes. We could all aim to be more compassionate and resilient. If only we make an effort to overcome our anger and grief. Transform it by focusing your energy towards helping others. Please be kind; take care of one another and our beautiful world. We need it now more than ever.