This past Wednesday, I lost a close friend to brain cancer. She was diagnosed with the illness 14 months ago and although there are painful days of radiation and chemotherapy, she braved all of the treatments with a smile and positive attitude.
While she was going through her illness, she took that time to design a T-shirt and tote bag art titled “Stay Positive” to help raise funds for her treatments and this work inspired the movement with the hashtag, #staypostive4Aly. Friends and family of hers would buy these t-shirts and wear them to keep the positive spirit alive. I was one of the many people privileged to get a T-shirt and a tote bag. Now, I wear and use them when I am having a bad day, because staying positive helps keep the motivation to do tough tasks whenever I feel like giving up.
In the 14 months that she was here with her family and friends, I witnessed the beautiful action of grieving, love, and care surrounding her as she spends her last days with her family. Grieving for many people comes in different forms. Although her family knew that she has very limited time, they took the effort to make beautiful memories every day.
They laugh when they can and make an effort to find humor even in difficulties. One of the many examples that they did was to have my friend play the ukulele of popular songs, such as the song, “Remember Me” from the movie Coco, the theme piece from the children’s popular show, “Arthur” on PBS Kids and various Christmas pieces.
They also took many family trips and made sure that my friend felt comfortable. Through all the painful moments, my friend inspired all with her positivity, never once complaining. She was a great artist, friend, sister, daughter, granddaughter, and cousin.
The day before she died, I had an urge to come into my university’s church. As I wheeled myself into the church, the piano cover was surprisingly still open. I sat down and let my fingers fly, wondering what could this be that the strange feeling came from. Chills rushed down my spine. Ten minutes later, I stood up and walked over to the Crucifix and gazed up at the Lord dying on the cross. Somehow, unlike my normal silent conversation with God, I prayed to Him out loud, not caring if anyone heard me or not. I asked God to grant her peace and love. He heard my prayers.
The next day, was Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day which my friend passed. There was grieving, yes, but her family handled it by staying positive, smiling, and remembering all the good times that my friend gave them. They strive to find humor and be funny-- making the process a lot easier.
Grieving is a slow process. It is the way of acknowledging the absence of someone special who once walked this earthly life with grace, beauty, and hope.
However, it doesn’t have to be painful because the memories are there, intact in the heart and soul of those who knew this special someone. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to know that these people are in our lives for a reason and that they are watching us from above.
Grieving can be a beautiful journey if we allow it to be. Because at the end of the day, our mental health and self-care are the most important aspects of our lives that should be kept in check, and we can do that by spreading positivity and remembering the good times that we once spent with that special someone in our lives.