Saturday, December 31, 2016

Another Year to Be Grateful For

As we sit here on the cusp of a New Year, getting ready to bid farewell to the old one, I can honestly say 2016 was the best year I've had in a while. Not perfect by any stretch, and not without it's sadness and challenges, but good nonetheless.

Last New Year's Eve I had absolutely no idea what the upcoming year had in store for me. I couldn't even begin to imagine the possibilities 2016 held, but I welcomed them all with open arms and without reserve. I was ready to tackle any challenge that faced me and to take advantage of every opportunity I was given. Little did I know just how far those opportunities would take me, literally and figuratively.

One day last January, out of the blue, I received a call asking me if I would go to Petawawa to share my story with some of the soldiers there. Without hesitation (I really do need a pause button), I immediately said yes. Of course, I had no idea that was to be the beginning of a new chapter of my life. As I stood there speaking to a battalion of infanteers, I couldn't help but wonder what Dan would have thought of it all. And then I could hear him saying, "You gave her a microphone and a captive audience, what were you thinking?" Actually I know he'd be pretty damn proud that I was able to find a way to use his loss to help soldiers and their families who are struggling. I can never put into words how much the response from all of the soldiers I have spoken to means to me. Since that day, I have had the honour of speaking several times. I have traveled across the country from Petawawa to Gagetown, Toronto, Kingston and Yellowknife. Yellowknife of all places. And in every single one of those places, I have been welcomed by old friends and new. I have met some of the most amazing, courageous men and women who serve our country. Men and women who have shared their stories with me. Men and women who inspire me every single day. Just as I have touched their lives, they too have touched mine. And they have become my strength.

When I first started writing this blog, I had no idea, of course, how my words would resonate with so many. Or that anyone would find me so inspirational. That's the thing isn't it? So many of us go through life never truly realizing the impact we have on others. I have been fortunate enough to get a small glimpse of the impact I have had on so many. And I am humbled by it. I am humbled by the widow who thanked me for telling her its okay for her to be happy (and it so definitely is), by the soldier who found the strength to not open a drink, by the one who called his mom to tell her he loved her after he heard me speak. I am humbled by every soldier and family I meet. I am humbled every single time I am asked to speak. I am humbled and I am incredibly grateful.

Grateful for the opportunity to make a difference and to give back. Grateful to those who believe in me, those who support me, and those who entrust me with their stories. Grateful that my story has inspired others. Grateful that I have given a voice to hope in the face of tragedy.

As I spoke in Kingston last month, I was overcome with emotion. So many dear friends were there to support me; friends from my very first posting as a young army wife, old neighbours, new friends. How very fortunate am I to have so many wonderful people in my life? I am so incredibly grateful for them and for the life that I had and the life I have. The life I have now is not the life I ever imagined myself having, but its a damn good one. And one I will never take for granted.

It is so easy to take it all for granted; our health, our people, our time. We are all guilty of that. But life is so very fragile. And often fleeting. 2016 reminded me of how tenuous it all is. This year a beautiful, gregarious young woman was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. My neighbour died mere months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. A husband and father of three suffered a fatal heart attack while golfing with friends. All tragic, painful reminders to never take our lives or our health for granted.

The life you have may not be the life you envisioned yourself with or the life you want, but it's your life. And it's up to you to make it the best one that it can possibly be.

It is never, ever too late to make a fresh start. Every day you get is a new opportunity, a new chance to begin again, please don't ever squander that gift away.

And no, it's not easy. I know that all too well. Starting over is hard, scary and painful. You will make mistakes along the way. You may even stumble and fall. But you can pick yourself up and you can start again. I know because I've done it, many times. I will never tell you that it's easy but I will tell you that it's worth it. Truly.

Leave the past where it belongs, in the past. Don't carry it with you into the New Year.

C.S. Lewis said, "There are far, far better things ahead than any you leave behind."  I so believe this to be true.

Bitterness and anger won't heal past hurts, they won't bring back what you have lost. But they will ruin the future and rob today of it's joy. And today really is the only day that is ever guaranteed.

My New Year's wish for you all is that you see how very much you have to be grateful for. Even when you don't believe you do, you really do. You're still here. That's a good place to start.

And always remember someone else is happy with less than what you have.

Someone else is happy with less than what you have.

I have no idea what 2017 has in store for me, but I do know this: I am grateful for the gift of another year. I know it won't be without it's challenges and there may well be more sadness but it will also bring with it happiness and joy.

Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and so much more.

Be grateful for the gift of another New Year. It's a gift that far too many will not receive. Please don't waste it.

Hello 2017. It's nice to see you!

"Approach the New Year with resolve to find opportunities hidden in each new day."~Michael Josephson

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