96: Fuel

96: Fuel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Fuel

Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end.

~Madame de Stael

Ten years ago my world was rocked. I was twenty when I got the devastating news. My cousin was killed in a car accident. It was horrific. We were closer than most cousins. He was like a brother to me. It tore my heart out and turned my world upside down. How was it fair to take someone so young? He was only twenty-four years old!

My cousin’s death made me question everything. There were little things like whether it was safe to drive, and there were bigger questions: Why was he taken from us? Why was God punishing us? Was I next? What is life? What is the purpose? Is it all worth it?

I was already in a stage of life where I was trying to figure it all out. I was sad and depressed, angry and confused. It was the most difficult time in my life.

And then, four years later, I changed in the most unexpected way. My younger sister Kate, only nineteen years old, was diagnosed with cancer. C-A-N-C-E-R. That word hits you like a ton of bricks. The long, hard struggle begins and you watch this disease take a toll on your loved one, yourself and everyone around you. My sister was the one I had turned to for help in tough situations. Now it was my turn to help her. What do you do when your loved one is in a tough situation? You watch and you pray. You experience every doctor visit as if it were your own. You take the news — the good and the bad — as if it were your news. You sit next to her while the poisonous chemo trickles into her body drip by drip. You hold her hair — until it all falls out — as she vomits every color of the rainbow. You wipe her tears, and yours, when the pain is so overwhelming that it all doesn’t seem worth it anymore. You do it all, every day, for five and a half years.

Until one day, after three remissions, three transplants and countless hospital stays, it got even worse. We landed in the emergency room and were faced with a lot of medical terminology and none of it was good. The very treatment that was to save my sister was killing her. She could no longer breathe on her own and needed life support. She could only communicate by writing things. She was there, still fighting. And so were we. But it was hard to hide the emotion. We were all scared. We were told on two different occasions that she would die within the next forty-eight hours. But she did not. That’s not to say we did not have scares, but she did not die. She was with us.

My sister was the most positive person I have ever known. She found the good in any situation, even this one. She loved life no matter how hard it got. She showed us that through the power of love she could get through anything life threw at her. It was only in tiny moments that she would show her fear — fear of the pain to come, fear of the road that lay ahead and, truthfully, fear of the end. We all feared it.

Just when I thought I could not cry anymore, that dreadful day came. I watched her take her last breath as I held her hand, tears rolling down my cheeks. To watch someone you love pass away is something you never forget. It seems to stop the world from spinning, first in the moment of loss, but then many more times in the days, months and years ahead.

Losing a sister is devastating and tragic. It truly changes your life forever. I miss her every day but I also thank her every day. I thank her for showing me the importance of love. Because of her, I realize now how blessed I am. I know that sounds crazy but it is not. It’s enlightenment. In losing my cousin years ago, I questioned everything and in my questioning, I kept coming back to one simple concept. Love deeply. Whether someone lives five years or one hundred years, their loved ones always wish for just one more day with them. It is never long enough.

Realizing this changed my life. I approached the world completely differently after that. While my sister was sick, I loved her and everyone else as though each day was my last. I am able to look at my life now and realize how truly special it is and how lucky I am. I have a bond with my family that is so amazingly strong and beautiful. I have found a love that will give me gifts I could have never imagined possible.

Learning how to love so deeply is priceless. That simple fact is what fuels me. I thrive because I allow myself to love deeply, every day. Nurture that love — for family, friends, strangers, and yourself. Be grateful for its existence because you have just found your fuel to thrive.

~Kristin Doney

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