My cousin David got killed by a train in 1983 when he was 14 years old. His mother's grief was the most painful thing I'd ever witnessed, and my 16 year old brain told me, "She'll never be happy again." Several months later, their family's home burned down, and David's father, my Uncle Bob, lost his arm in that fire. "What more can happen to these poor people?" I wondered. In October of the next year Uncle Bob joined David in Heaven and my sorrow for his widow, my Great Aunt Mary, the kindest woman I'd ever known, knew no bounds. "She has no hope of ever being happy again."
For the next few years when I'd see her, she seemed better, always kind and friendly and loving. I asked her how she managed to get through and she said it's because you don't have a choice... you just keep surviving, and that the grandchildren and new babies in the family helped... I would find that out myself in later years.
Then came a family reunion in 1988, I believe it was. Aunt Mary, who had been through so much, was all smiles with much laughter... she looked genuinely happy. She had a new boyfriend, and she was in love. "Maybe she CAN be happy again!" Never did I imagine that I would see her beaming with happiness like that. I carried that inspiration with me throughout all the hard times and I always will.
Over the next decades she would marry the man who brought happiness back to her life, she would travel to Ireland, she went skydiving in Las Vegas at the age of 60+... so many happy things.... so many happy times. She became the inspiration of my lifetime, and she always will be. Because of her I was able to hang in there at times when I really didn't want to because she had taught me that no matter what happens, you can be happy again.
The past three years were hard on her... in her 70s she fought and won a battle against Stage 3 lung cancer that she was told she had little chance to survive... her son-in-law was killed in a motorcycle crash... the wife and baby of her grandson died during childbirth. No matter what she was going through, she was there to comfort and console and offer hope and love and smiles to everyone who loved her and needed her support.
At 4:00 this morning Aunt Mary left this planet, left a very big family, and I know there are many people that I'm related to right now that wonder if they will ever be happy again. I know that they can be. My Aunt Mary taught me that.