1. This morning, like he has every morning for the last decade, my 86-year-old grandfather picked a fresh wild flower on his morning walk and took it to my grandmother. This morning I decided to go with him to see her. And as he placed the flower on her gravestone, he looked at me and said, “I just wish I had picked her a fresh flower every morning when she was alive. She would have loved that.”
2. Today, on my 47th birthday, I re-read the suicide letter I wrote on my 27th birthday about two minutes before my girlfriend showed up at my apartment and told me, ‘I’m pregnant.’ She was honestly the only reason I didn’t follow through with it. Suddenly I felt I had something to live for. Today she’s my wife, and we’ve been happily married for 19 years. And my daughter, who is now a 21-year-old college student, has two younger brothers. I re-read my suicide letter every year on my birthday as a reminder to be thankful – I am thankful I got a second chance at life.
3. After injuring my back, losing my job because of it, being evicted from our apartment, moving in with Laura’s parents, nursing my five-year-old through a nearly fatal bout of strep throat, I was stuck in a tragic rut for far too long. And I was sitting on the front porch of my in-law’s house feeling sorry for myself, yet again, when my old college buddy called me crying and said, ‘Mel-Mel-Melissa, my baby girl, just died in a car wreck.’ And suddenly I felt like the lucky one.
4. This morning, nearly five years after my husband’s passing, a beautiful couple and their three kids knocked on my front door. The man smiled and said, “Your husband was my heart donor. He saved my life. Not a single day has gone by that I don’t pray for him and think of you. Thank you!
5. Last week, at my friend Haley’s funeral, her husband stood up to deliver her eulogy and said, “Life is the leading cause of death, and Haley LIVED her life, passionately. She died doing what she loved to do. If she didn’t do what she loved, she may not have died yesterday, but she wouldn’t have truly lived either.”
6. Yesterday my sister and I were in a pretty bad car accident. Luckily both of us were wearing our seat belts and didn’t have any major injuries. My sister is and always has been Mrs. Popular – she knows everyone. I’m the complete opposite – an introvert who hangs out with the same two girls all the time. My sister immediately posted a comment on Facebook and Instagram about our accident. And while all her friends were commenting, my two friends showed up independently at the scene of the accident before the ambulance arrived.
7. A good friend of mine, who graduated with honors from Cal Berkley several years ago, is now the co-founder and CEO of a successful start-up in Silicon Valley. Throughout grade school he struggled with reading and writing disabilities. He spent kindergarten all the way through 12th grade in English ESE classes. During a parent-teacher conference when he was a freshman in high school, two ESE teachers collectively informed his mom that it was highly unlikely he would ever graduate. So how did he do it? How did he push through and overcome the odds? “Affirmations,” he told me with a serious smile when I interviewed him yesterday for a side-project I’m working on. “I literally told myself that they were wrong about me. I told myself exactly what I needed to hear, every single day, to move my life forward. It may sound like a cliché to some people, but it’s not; it’s powerful stuff!”
8. My dad is a blind cancer survivor. He lost both his eyes when he was in his early 30’s to a rare form of cancer. Despite this, he raised my sister and I, and took care of my mom who was in and out of rehab for alcoholism and depression. My mom is a fully recovered alcoholic now, my sister and I have graduated college, and my parents are still together and back to being happy. I’m certain none of this would have been possible if my dad hadn’t been such a resilient, positive force in our lives. My dad’s mental strength literally saved our family.
9. This past weekend I volunteered at my alma mater and gave a campus tour to a couple dozen incoming freshman. There was a young man in a wheelchair in the group who chatted with me all morning and never stopped smiling. He had a positive energy about him that was absolutely contagious. At the end of the tour I found out he had a scholarship to play basketball before a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. He told me, “It didn’t ruin my life, it just changed my circumstances. I’m happy to be here with you right now, with so many opportunities in front of me.”
10. The drummer in our band, Nick, is legally deaf, and has been since he was born. But he can still hear low bass tones and feel the vibrations from the drums and other instruments. Honestly, he’s such an incredible drummer that most people don’t believe he’s deaf. Sometimes I can’t believe it myself.
11. I’m sitting in my hospital bed waiting to have both my breasts removed. But in a strange way I feel like the lucky one. Up until now I have had no health problems. I’m a 69-year-old woman in the last room at the end of the hall before the pediatric division of the hospital begins. Over the past few hours I have watched dozens of cancer patients being wheeled by in wheelchairs and rolling beds. None of these patients could be a day older than 17.
12. Tonight Angel and I met a family of six staying at a hotel in Miami where we were vacationing. We saw them hanging out in the lobby, sharing stories and laughing hysterically. So on our way out, we said hello to them and asked where they were from. “Oh, we’re from here,” the mother said. “Our house burned down to the ground yesterday, but miraculously, all of us made it out safely. And that makes today a day worth smiling about.
13. This afternoon my teammate broke his right arm during our first game of the season. It was actually his first game in over two years, after his doctors told him that he would never play again due to knee surgery. This evening when I stopped by to see him I assumed he would be terribly upset. Instead he smiled and said, “That hour I spent on the field today was once only a dream.”
14. Last week I interviewed a motel housekeeper in Miami Beach for a side project I’m working on. “Do you like your job?” I asked. To my surprise, she smiled from ear to ear and was breathless for a couple seconds. She finally collected herself and said, “I can’t believe how much I love my job! I get to make dozens of our guests happy every day and feed my two beautiful children at the same time.”
15. I’m sitting here on the eighth anniversary of a dear family member’s passing, thinking about the last conversation I had with her. With a soft, weak voice she told me her only regret was that she didn’t appreciate every year with the same passion and purpose that she had in the final two years of her life, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “I’ve accomplished so much recently,” she told me. “If I had only known, I would have started sooner.”