If I pictured my life without my older sister, I can imagine I'd be more selfish, more fearful and more awkward than I currently am. But most importantly, I'd be a whole lot weaker. My sister, Rachel, is two years and five months older than I am, and she has always been the epitome of success to me. Rachel skipped kindergarten and I always hoped I would be able to skip a grade to catch up to her.

She was valedictorian at her high school, so I challenged myself to be one at my school too. Rachel did not let things get her down: if my parents said she couldn't get her hair cut or dyed, she'd do it herself; when she didn't feel like she belonged at her college in Massachusetts, she took the initiative to transfer herself; if she set her mind to something, she would do it. My sister's obstacles were never ones she would fall down in front of; she worked her butt off to fly above them every time.

A few years ago, my sister had to watch the love her life, Robert, fall ill with spinal cancer and become wheelchair-bound. When his cancer seemingly fell into remission, they found a great life together while she was still in college, with them sharing an apartment together and creating a garden together. Anytime I saw them together, they looked at each other with such love and hope, something that doesn't shine through every relationship.

At such a good point in their relationship, Robert's cancer spread to his brain and he passed away.

This was in the middle of my sister's senior year of college, just a few months before she was meant to move on into adulthood, into a future she had planned with her fiancé. She had been with Robert since her senior year of high school. He had always been a part of her adult life, a fixture in it, despite the fact that he had almost been taken from her even earlier. My sister has had to completely rearrange her plans for the future but she has done it with such hope and intent, even with the thoughts of Robert on her mind.

Rachel is vulnerable enough to know when she can't hold it all in and she allows others to help her when she needs it. But most of the time, she is holding herself up all on her. The grief could've become her undoing, but instead, she allows the memory of Robert to push her to reach for her aspirations and not allow anything to hold her back.

My sister has had obstacle after obstacle but they never define her whole being, only shape her into someone more resilient. And Rachel has been so incredibly strong throughout the past few years and I wish she didn't have to go through such heartache and pain to find out just how strong she is, but I have known my entire life that she is a fighter and does not get crushed under pressure. She is inspired by Robert to keep living life to the fullest and I am inspired by her to fight through the toughest of days to find the great days beyond.