Birthdays are supposed to be days of celebration, but today was a little different.

This morning, instead of sleeping in, I awoke bright and early to my phone ringing. I answered to find my mother on the other end. The mild irritation of the extra early wake-up call that I expected to be a ‘Happy Birthday son” was quickly replaced by the shock and awe of what my mother shared instead, something I did not expect. Yesterday, sometime late in the evening, one of my dear cousins very unexpectedly passed away. Definitely not what I, or anyone in the family, could have possibly imagined.

As I hung up the phone, and shared the news with my wife, we reminisced briefly about this sweet woman. In spite of the many trials and challenges in her life, I can’t ever remember seeing her without feeling the happiness that seemed to radiate from her smile. She never really complained about the challenges in her life, though I know they existed, but instead always seemed to talk positively about things. As these memories played through my mind, I couldn’t help but think what a powerful example she was to me, though I’d never consciously noticed it before now. What an amazing way to live life, to project such a positive attitude to those around her!

My heart breaks for all of those close to her, and I add my thoughts and prayers to the many others who knew and loved her. I know without a doubt that she is in a better place, reunited with those who’ve passed on before her, and yet I mourn alongside those who will miss their sweet and kind daughter, sister, aunt, cousin and friend.

I’m blessed to have had the privilege to know such a choice spirit and to have been uplifted by her very presence as she fought the good fight. Until we meet again, may you rest in peace.