Most of us approach daily life thinking we are safe, events are predictable, and that others are trustworthy. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and tragedy strikes unexpectedly. Our beliefs are shattered, we lose hope, and we see life as filled with danger, uncertainty, and suffering. But, it is in these moments, in the face of adversity, that we recognize not to take things for granted.
Fifteen years ago, my life flashed in front of my eyes. My initial plan to lose a few pounds spiraled out of control resulting in the development of an eating disorder. After starving myself and exercising compulsively, I lost a significant amount of weight causing many health-related problems. The one that almost costed me my life was severe weakness and fatigue. I was driving home for the weekend from college, and, to this day, I’m not exactly sure what happened. What I do know is that I totaled my brand new SUV, and spun several times on a major highway. I remember thinking, “What the f*** am I doing? Others would kill for my life—surrounded by a loving family, receiving a great education, all while playing a college sport.” I quickly realized how blessed I was, how lucky I was to be alive, and it was time to regain my health, happiness and strength. Why did it take a car accident to have gratitude?
Three years ago, I watched as my son had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to peanuts. His flushed skin was covered in hives, his airways were closing quickly causing difficulty in breathing, and he needed an injection of epinephrine to save his life. Guilt came over me swiftly. How could I have ever complained about his food allergies? His behavior? His needs? In those moments of fear, horror, weakness and shock, I promised myself to never wince when he presented challenges to us—it only mattered that he was alive and with me. Why did it take a sudden attack of fright to really feel gratitude?
Two years ago, all I dreamed of was getting pregnant, and having a third child. Eight weeks in, I was told I had a miscarriage. At that moment, I felt overwhelmingly remorseful for ever obsessing over how much weight I gained during my other pregnancies, or how much I weighed period. Not that I didn’t appreciate them before, but instantly I looked at my two children I had at home, hugged them, and realized how blessed I was to have them. Why did it take tragedy to really feel gratitude?
And, then, on top of personal hardships, I have witnessed others experience life threatening events, seen natural disasters, or have heard about someone else losing their life tragically. The following major events have caused disbelief and heartbreak: Columbine High School massacre, 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, Virginia Tech shooting, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and now, most recently, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
Tragedy reminds me that life is a precious gift. While it’s horrible, awful, terrible, and devastating, it can make us all take life less for granted and hold those we love a little bit closer. Tragedy drives us to do things that are important to us today, and not wait for tomorrow. I remember that I am here, know I made it through, and am grateful for my good fortunes.
***My heart goes out to the victims, their families, friends and community all affected by the senseless and horrible shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.