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Thank You, Big Sister

This time of year gratitude seems to turn into a bit of a buzzword. I myself have countless abandoned, half-finished gratitude journals throughout my house. It’s a practice that started as a tribute to Karey, but I’ve never been able to stick to it. She religiously kept a gratitude journal, documenting a variety of things every single day for which she was grateful. It’s a habit that I envy but have never been able to replicate. This year, I will do something different. Instead of pretending this will be the year I can finally make it stick, I’ll use this as my official gratitude journal entry. This year, I’ll write about a few of the things I’ve learned to be grateful for in the wake of losing my sister. The things that remind me that even though she’s gone, she’s still very much a part of my life.

1) Laughter. I’d like to think I’ve always been the type of person who appreciates a good laugh, but I’ve become even more aware of the importance of real, true, soul-soothing laughter since Karey died. Everyone who knew her, knows what an amazing and hearty laugh she had. She loved nothing more than a good old-fashioned belly laugh. Since her death I’ve found two different notes from Karey, both imploring me to “always keep your laughter.” I find myself pausing in these moments now – when someone I’m with really, truly laughs, when we can’t stop ourselves, when we are laughing so hard we cry, when it just takes our breath away. I try to pause and take it all in, and hold on to it for as long as possible, every time it happens. These are moments to savor, to be grateful for. I promise, Kar, we are keeping the laughter.

2) Dragonflies. Four years ago I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a single dragonfly, but now they seem to show up any time I need a little kick in the pants or to adjust my attitude. The first time I saw one I was sitting in my car, trying to think through a particular issue with one of my boys, overthinking and stressing about being a good mom. I saw two dragonflies just kind of hovering around. A little bit later, after I'd made peace with whatever was worrying me, I saw them again. Google immediately informed me that yes, in fact, in some circles, dragonflies are considered signs from those we’ve loved and lost. The first family vacation we took after Karey died, one landed on my mom’s shoulder while we were out and just hung out for a few minutes. I didn’t need any further convincing. We see them so often now my boys call them “Aunt Karey bugs”. While I don’t think she’d be thrilled to hear she’s a bug now in their young minds, I know she’s happy they feel connected to her. I'm so thankful now every time I see one, I know she's telling me I'm heading down the right path and everything is going to be alright.

3) Perspective. It’s not perfect, but I’ve definitely shifted the way I look at life. I know almost everyone who has experienced loss or tragedy says this and feels this. Before it happened to me, this idea always seemed like such a radical shift, like it was suddenly so easy to only put emphasis and urgency on the truly important things. But it’s not, it’s more like a constant recalibration of what is deserving of your time, your energy, your worry, your love. It’s still getting sucked into the unimportant things at times but having the knowledge to step back and say, this isn’t a real problem and this doesn't deserve my energy. And then adjusting your expectations around it. It’s allowing yourself to be ok with the magic and beauty in the every day. And it’s knowing that not everything HAS to be magical and beautiful. Sometimes it’s just ok, and that is more than enough. Life is full of joy and sadness, it's easy and complicated, all wrapped up together. Life is messy and it’s hard. But if you have the right perspective you can figure out which messes are worth cleaning up.

Thank you, Karey, for all you gave me. Maybe this is the year I’ll finally keep up with the journaling. If not, I’m sure there will be a dragonfly there to remind me that I don't have to write about it to feel the gratitude.

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