Wednesday, January 4, 2017

You Have Worth

Two thousand seventeen.

Oh my. This year will always be ingrained in my mind for one primary reason. Back in 2012 when I was applying to colleges, I was applying for the class of 2017. I began college in the fall of 2013, and anticipated going to school for four years and graduating, as we are "supposed" to. I quickly found out that summer and that fall that my life was far from typical and many things surrounding me were far from the things that were "supposed to happen". After Alex passed away I re-thought a lot of stuff, transferred schools, switched my major, and hopped on the five year college plan. Slowly I found my way into a really good place and was 100% fine with this five year deal. But having 2017 set in, I can't help but think about the original plans to graduate this year and the hype of "Class of 2017" when I started college back in 2013.

Well here we are just a few days into 2017 and I really want to take advantage of this new year, fresh start time. I am not generally one for resolutions at the start of the new year. I am a firm believe that we can change our lives around and set new goals and dream new dreams on any day of the year. Heck some of the most pivotal life changes I have made have been on a random Tuesday in July or in the middle of the night in October. The year on the calendar pages doesn't have to mean everything changes.

But, it also can.

While I am not a huge promoter of resolutions, I partake in them in a lesser sense. I think that the start of the year is a really good time to focus on you. I don't necessarily mean you need to go join a gym and lose *Insert amount of weight* or cut out sugar for the year or remove all desserts or go on a cleanse or whatever the latest fad may be. I think we all need to really focus on ourselves. Focus on our mental health. Focus on our happiness. The genuine, real happiness.

I look back at my sister and see someone who really struggled to feel genuinely happy. Someone who struggled with her mental health, and someone who had to work hard to feel that real, genuine happiness. Someone who filled that void with not necessarily the best things. Losing weight isn't magically going to make you happier. Never eating another cookie in your life won't change how you feel forever. Surrounding yourself with tons of people every Friday night won't suddenly fill you up and getting a 4.0 GPA or a promotion at work won't take away all the other struggles in your life.

We as a society try so hard to fill voids of sadness and pits of anxiety and stress with things that will never, truly fill us up. We seek out clothes, or food, peers (note: not close friends), grades, and guys/girls to fill us up. Some people use drugs or alcohol to fill that void. But the thing is, that stuff never works. Sure, working out is great, a significant other can be very healthy, eating healthy is a wonderful option, and alcohol in moderation is just fine. But when all of this stuff is abused, it will fail to lift you up and improve your life. I saw it with my sister, and we see it often in people around us.

So, if that is you, look around and take a step back. Look at your life. Focus on you this year. Figure out what it is that fills you up. If you love to run, keep running and run more! If you hate running, find another way to work out that you actually enjoy. If you hate salads, don't force yourself to eat them just to stay healthy- there are other ways. If you are killing yourself trying to get a 4.0, remember your grades don't define you and straight A's are not necessary and are not your defining factor. If you're unhappy in a relationship, walk away. And if you are not genuinely happy with your life, make some changes.

This year, surround yourself with people who lift you up. Surround yourself with people who see the value and worth that you have to offer and people who respect you in all aspects. Your worth and your heart is not something to joke around about, and I think we can all attest to the fact that we have let people into our lives that fail to recognize our worth and that has only caused less genuine happiness. SO if I give you one piece of advice for this year let this be it: surround yourself with people who recognize your worth and value and respect you. And be surrounded by those who lift you up, and those you lift up too!

Seek to live a healthy life- both physically and emotionally. Take time for yourself- sleep an adequate amount, do what you want to do, and go on some solo adventures. This life is far too precious to forget about yourself in the midst of everything going on. DOn't let that mental health take a back seat this year and don't try to belittle it because it's not important. Because it is! It really, really is and I hope we can all walk through this year as happier people that treat our bodies with love in respect in regard to everything from fitness, to love, to our brains, and down to our feet that carry us through each day. A new year reminds me of Alex and how grateful I am for a fresh start and another year of living. Lets live for those who can't any more.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Put it Down

I'm going to start this post off by asking you to look around. Where are you right now? What are the people doing? Maybe you're sitting in a coffee shop, in the library, at work, or sitting in a restaurant. Look at those around you and count how many people are sitting on their phones. Texting, scrolling Facebook, snap chatting, or checking their emails. I can almost guarantee that more often than not those people you are observing are sitting on their phones.

We live in a society that is all consumed by our electronic devices. I am 110% guilty of this myself and I am quite certain that a large majority of you reading this are as well. I don't want to admit it, but I have been completely sucked into this generational adoration with technology. The constant feeling of needing to have my phone with me as if it is s a comfort item. The feeling that if we aren't checking social media we are missing out on something, when so often social media only makes us feel more depressed. It's sad when you think about it and when you think about it so much.

I was talking with my dad the other night and he had me watch a short YouTube clip about the generation we live in and our obsession with our phones. The speaker talked about how we go out to eat with a friend and keep our phone on the table. We text, snap chat, perhaps even answer the phone of another friend, simply showing the friend we are physically with that they aren't enough. What message does this send? We go to catch up with an old friend at a coffee shop and we constantly check our phone and see if another friend is talking to us. The screen lights up and everything in the room is irrelevant. Is there a better offer of something to do right now? This video was a reality check, and a reminder of how obsessed this generation is with our cell phones.

Like I mentioned before, I myself am so, so guilty of this. Some days I'm better about it and keep my phone in my backpack during class or in my jacket pocket while out with friends. Many days I refrain from instagramming or snap chatting what I'm doing because I want to personally soak in what's going on around me and enjoy it for what it is. Some days I avoid social media altogether and focus on studying, my family, or simply myself. And other times I leave a text conversation because I would rather have that face-to-face communication. But these are not my daily actions, and I know I should be doing it more, and so should you.

I was at Starbucks this morning and while waiting in line I didn't pull out my phone and scroll through Instagram. The woman behind me in line asked me if there was a college close by as a handful of people were sitting with laptops and textbooks. We began talking about the town and I learned she had just moved to the area from out of state. She asked me about school and my major. She asked me about the area and things to do in the winter here. We both ordered our drinks, got our drinks, and continued to chat. I honestly do not remember the last time this happened. That I wasn't on my phone passing the time, and she wasn't on her phone, and instead we had a real life conversation. With a stranger. Something that is so normal, but never happens any more and is often considered "weird" or even "rude". If someone stops you at the store to say something or someone asks you a question in line often people get annoyed. Everyone is in such a rush these days and is in such a hurry to move.

With Christmas just days away, this is such a busy time. Everyone out running their last minute errands and stressing out about seeing their family and being the perfect host. Stop. Take a step back. Put down your phone, close your laptop, and look around you. This is such an incredibly hard time for so many people and myself included. Talking to this woman today helped remind me that there are so many great people out there. Her friendliness reminded me the true reason for Christmas and helped me see beauty in the holiday despite not having my sister here. Avoiding my phone for a few hours the other day helped me enjoy time catching up with a friend, and not worrying about who posted what on their snap chat story and who entered a relationship with who on Facebook. Taking a break from binge watching Netflix helped me enjoy lunch and time with my mom, just the two of us.
In this time of year where everyone is in such a rush, slow down. I wish Alex was still here. I wish I could go buy her a Christmas gift and be stuck at the kids table with her on Christmas Eve. I wish I could laugh with her about our silly Christmas traditions and pose for cliche sibling pictures on Christmas Eve, like everyone else. I wish I could bake with her and read the Night Before Christmas one more time together, despite always complaining to our mom that we were too old for it. I wish I could have just one more Christmas with her. So, as I and so many other people are wishing for loved ones to be here this Christmas, put your phone down, and look around. Talk to your aunts and uncles from out of town, let your grandpa tell you old stories even if they're boring, play games with your little cousins, laugh about the silly traditions, and partake in the cliche and candid photos. You never know if it's the last Christmas with the ones you love, so soak it all in and remember what's truly important. And it all begins by just simply putting your phone down.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

3 Years + Holidays

Facebook reminded me this morning, that three years ago today, Alex and I took these Christmas card pictures. It's funny how time beats on and everything changes. I can go days without thinking about Alex now and I can walk through life with a lot less sadness. But then something as simple as Facebook can remind you of some of the best memories, and the past comes rushing back in. 

When Alex first passed away, I didn't know if I would ever be able to make it through a day without wanting to talk to her. For weeks, even months I would pick up my phone and start to text her before realizing I couldn't do that any more. For so long I would gather thoughts in my head of things I wanted to tell her and stories I wanted to share. For far too long I went to sleep night after night just praying I would dream about her. She was on my mind all the time, and I never thought I would be able to function the same without her.
Well, three years later, and a lot has changed. About two years ago I stopped piling up thoughts and saving stories. I realized that Alex was with me every day and she already knew the stories I wanted to share and the secrets I wanted to tell her. I realized that life was moving on, and that was ok. As I began to grow and my life had a lot of changes, I started to realize that a lot of my life and the people in it were people she never met and experiences she never knew. While this was such a weird feeling, it made me more content. I began to feel as though she wasn't missing out because this new life was one she inspired me to do, even before she passed away.
I haven't posted about Alex in a while because the thoughts I have about her have been running through my mind and haven't been able to coherently make it into sentences. I think about her an awful lot though, and more so than I thought I would. Being in nursing school, I work with a wide variety of patients in clinical settings. And in this day and age, many of my patients have a history of drug abuse. When I decided to pursue nursing, I didn't necessarily do it because of Alex. I did it because Alex always encouraged me to do whatever it was I wanted, regardless of the time and the challenges that came with it. She pushed me to be who I wanted to be and to change my path if I felt it wasn't right. I did that, but I got more than I ever thought I would.
So, even though Alex never knew I was going to be a nurse while she was here with me, she still played such a prominent role in that decision. And now, so many of my patients remind me of Alex. I see so many people struggling with drug addictions. Not everyone gets it. To be honest, I still don't totally get it. But, one thing I do get, is the struggle. And the hardships. And the strain it puts on family and friends and all those who love that patient. It hurts me to see these patients addicted to drugs because I see my patient lying in that bed, wishing that my sister's overdose would've ended up in a hospital bed, and not in Heaven. But what I have learned, is that if Alex had to pass away from that, then I can use that to guide the way I live my life and the way I will act. 

So, as Facebook reminded me of the sweet memories with Alex three years ago today, I am reminded of her ever shining light in my life and her continuous presence whether I realize it or not. I am reminded of her contagious smile and I can almost hear her laugh. I am reminded of her love of coffee and excitement for Christmas. Seeing these pictures remind me that while the holidays make me miss her that much more, they also make me cherish our memories a hundred times more. In the midst of so much darkness in our world, I find contentment in the memories of my sister, and the lessons she continues to teach me three years after her passing. 

And I urge every one of you to cling on to your loved ones this holiday season, and every single day. Take silly pictures and drink lots of coffee. Listen to their laughter and smile at their presence. And please, don't forget to treat every person you encounter with kindness. During the holidays, far too many people are fighting the battle of grief and suppressing tears over loved ones they wish could be here. So be kind to the strangers at the store and smile to the person next to you. And never stop remembering how precious life is and what a blessing it is to be standing here today, enjoying this beautiful life.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Feels Like Home

The Stellhorn family starts them young
Growing up, my family had a very strong connection to the University of Wisconsin- Madison. My
mom went to school there, along with my grandparents and countless aunts and uncles. My dad grew up in Madison as well, and a handful of relatives still reside right around the city. I started going to Badger games when I was a toddler and we have had season tickets for the football games for as long as I can remember. Visiting Madison was a normal routine for my family, and in a sense it was just another familiar place in my childhood.

I think my sister knew from the time she was in grade school that UW Madison was her dream school. I'm pretty sure…well actually I am positive that was my dream too, until I was about 17 years old, but life has a funny way of working out as we all know. But any who, I'll never forget the day during my sister's senior year of high school when she found out she was accepted. I can recall walking into the house and seeing nearly a dozen badger balloons and a stuffed bucky. To say we were all excited was an understatement. My sister is the oldest cousin and her going to Madison meant that the legacy of our family was living on there. It was honestly such an exciting time for all of us.

While I do not attend UW Madison, I will forever call myself a huge Badger fan. I will always cheer for Wisconsin, regardless of my school or where life takes me, and I will always wear one of my many Badger clothing items on game day. To be honest, I think it's a requirement in my family ;)

After Alex passed away, there were a lot of things I didn't think I would be able to do any more. Places to go, foods to eat, even songs to listen to. I haven't stepped foot in a Qdoba since she passed away and I haven't listened to a few songs since the summer of 2013 either. So, needless to say, Madison was a bit of a touchy subject after Alex passed away. She was about to be a senior and she had really big dreams of attending law school at Madison, too. I wasn't sure if I could go back to that campus without her there. Not only did I grow up spending so much time there, but the three years she was a student I spent so much time there with her. I attended lectures sitting by her side, slept over countless times in her dorm and apartment, worked on homework in the libraries, and wandered around campus eating ice cream and pizza.

Standing outside of Alex's old apartment on State Street
Not long after August of 2013, however, I did return to Madison for a visit. And I kept returning. And now, almost three years later, every time I go back to Madison's campus, it's kind of like coming home. Like coming home to Alex. She absolutely loved that school and that town. I wander past her old apartment complex and can feel the warmth of Alex in the air. I stroll down State Street and past Camp Randall and am reminded of the hundreds of memories we had in that town for 18 years.

After Alex passed away, so many of our relatives and friends did special acts in her honor. One of the coolest things however, is what we did in Madison. We bought a memorial chair in the Union Theater with her name on it as well as bought a memorial brick with her name on it. The school and city that meant so much to her and my family will forever have her name engraved on it. I like to think she would be so so happy about this.
Sitting in Alex's chair in the theater
While it still saddens me that she never got to finish college or pursue her dreams of becoming a lawyer, I am confident that her impact is still
shining through. She will always have a place in Madison and on that campus, and for that I am happy. Everyday I see a little piece of her somewhere, in someone or something. The friends I can talk to and be genuinely happy with that make me forget about some of the terrible things in life. The activities I participate in that make me forget Alex is gone. I am so thankful for countless people in my life. Alex is still living in me. And I am forever grateful for places that make me feel like time hasn't changed, and make me genuinely smile.

Big thanks to Alex, a friend of mine and my family's for taking these great pictures!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

So tell me, what is it you plan to do?

Last summer I made a real conscious effort to live with adventure and really get out of my comfort zone. Growing up, Alex was always more adventurous than I was. I liked to play it safe, and I enjoyed my comfort zone. I liked schedules and organized plans. Alex liked to live life miles from her comfort zone, embracing spontaneity each day. So, in one of my efforts to really channel her, I dared to be adventurous. And I must say, I had an incredible summer. I've really made an effort to live each day in honor of Alex. Living each day with intention and a purpose. In a sense this is a follow up to this post from last July. Because one thing I think I try to drill into everyone I talk to, is that this life is so precious. 

So tell me, what is it you're going to do to make the most out of this life? I don't think I truly started living until Alex passed away. Sure, I did some exciting stuff and lived an interesting life for 18 years. But honestly, I don't think I genuinely enjoyed the mundane of each day until three summers ago. When my sister was 21, she thought she had a lifetime ahead of her. A lifetime to tell people how much she cared about them, a lifetime to find something she was passionate about, and a lifetime to do everything she ever wanted to do. But then, all of that changed in an instant. 

So now I'm the sister that's 21. And I know all too much, that we don't necessarily have a lifetime ahead of us. Your lifetime may just be a few more weeks. I'm living each day with the deep hopes that my life will extend decades and decades beyond today. But I also will never forget, that life can change in an instant, and no days are guaranteed for you or I. I could walk through each day going through the motions, or I could live a little bit more. 

So tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? I hope you ponder this question. And I hope you really resonate on it. Are you going to wake up tomorrow and go to to your job and eat dinner and go to bed. Going through the motions. Or, are you going to do something more? If you don't like your job, find a new job. If you hate your major, switch. If you want to reconnect with a friend, reach out now.  Get outside. Breathe in the fresh air. Read some books. Spend time with your family and friends. Have meaningful conversation. Do the stuff you always said you wanted to do. Tell those you care about how much they mean to you. Be bold. Because what do you have to lose? 

When Alex passed away, I had some peace with the fact that I had told her in recent days that I loved her. I had peace that in recent months we spent time together just laughing and talking. We spent time in each other's presence. But, I still look back and wish I would have said it more. I wish I would have been with her more. I wish I would have told her how much I admired her strength and intelligence. How she was such a role model to me in different ways and how she taught me more than she knew. There is no such thing as too late in this life. If someone is still living and breathing, you have time. Trust me, even if you just have 10 minutes, you have time. 

So, once again I say, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? I hope it's something big. I hope it's something adventurous, and extraordinary. You have the power to live a big and bold life. Embrace each day and the life you've been given. The fact that you woke up today is an extraordinary gift that I rarely recognized for 18 years of my life. But today, I wake up and realize that it is a beautiful day because I have the ability to stand up and walk outside to admire the beauty all around me. I have the ability to take in nature and the simple beauty all around me. It is a beautiful day because I can tell those in my life just how much they mean to me. And it is a beautiful day because I can continue to make the most of this wild, and precious life.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What I Know Now + 5 Things I've Learned

When Alex died nearly three summers ago, I was instantly thrown into a club that no one wants to join, and no one thinks they ever will need to join. The club goes by many names, but one thing I can say with certainty, is that this club holds some of the most beautiful souls I have ever met.

The "club" consists of individuals that lost loved ones, some that lost siblings, some who lost loved ones to drug overdoses, and those who lost their loved ones unexpectedly, and all too soon. There is an unspeakable bond between people who can relate to the grief and loss that you feel after losing a loved one. I never wanted to join any of these "clubs", but as life has it, I couldn't imagine myself without these people now. They have taught me, and will continue to teach me so much about embracing this beautiful life.

As I look back on these past few years without Alex and the past three years of grieving the loss of my sister to a drug overdose, I have learned so much. So much about myself, our society, and those who are closest to me. I've learned about the way I view this life and the way I live it. And now I'm sharing 5 things that make me think, if I knew then what I know now. And because writing this blog has helped me in so many ways move through this loss, I've gathered five thoughts to share with you all.

1. Our choices do not define us
Whether you're addicted to drugs or you made another decision in your lifetime that society looks down upon- that doesn't define you. Don't spend another day or another precious moment of your life thinking that. The choices of your past do not define you. Modern day society tells us that we are defined by our choices, primarily the poor ones, but moving beyond the fact that my sister made a choice to try heroin many years ago is what has helped me heal and remember who Alex was and what she stood for…not one choice she made.

2. The sun will come up tomorrow, but if it doesn't seem like it, you have the power to be a light.
No matter how dark today is, or how bad the grief is, tomorrow is a new day and the sun will rise again. Literally and figuratively, we all have the power to be a light. The last three years I have learned that the sun can be a powerful light, but so can my friends, family, and strangers. The friend who sent me a sweet text or card on Alex's birthday, the friend that hugged me tight on the anniversary of Alex's death, or the unknowing stranger at the grocery store that was kind to me on a day I was really missing Alex. Lights. Bright, shining, beautiful lights everywhere we look. And I've learned how important my light is and that everyone has darkness and if we can be even a small glimpse of light on dark day for another person, then that is remarkable.

3. Bad things happen to good people
Life is not fair, and bad things happen to good people each and every day. I quickly realized that pitying myself wasn't going to help anything and asking "why me?" wasn't going to bring Alex back. Instead of dwelling on those thoughts, I sought to keep Alex's memory alive. I looked for all the good things God had put in my life and the incredible people that stood by my side through this journey of grief. Bad things may have to happen to some really good people, but letting those bad moments define us is something we can't let happen.

4. Time doesn't heal all wounds 
Yes, over time I have learned to accept Alex's death and progress with my life. Today is better than yesterday, and the grief I felt two years ago is far different from today. There are days where I miss Alex so much, and days where I think to myself that I have forgotten the sadness. For the rest of my life, holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries will always, always be hard. Fourth of July fireworks up north will never feel "normal" without Alex and February 18th will never feel like just another day without signing happy birthday to Alex. Sitting in Alex's old bedroom will never be the same without her there, either. Time has helped me come to terms with her death and my new life without my sister, but it will never 100% heal the wounds.

5. The deepest sorrows have lead me to experience unspeakable joy. 
Though I will grieve the death of Alex forever, it does not mean that my life is lacking happiness. While it took some time, I have come to learn that the joy I experience today is far greater than the joy I experienced before Alex passed away.  Losing Alex caused a pain that ached in every bone and every ounce of my being. But my life today is now so rich and vibrant and full of life having experienced such deep sorrows. I love big, live fuller, and experience a joy like never before. I feel more, so I may get sad and grieve, but when I experience joy it is like never before. I have learned first hand just how precious this life is and I take absolutely nothing for granted. And that, to me, is joy, unspeakable joy. Because the way I live my life today, fills me with an amount of joy that I never knew possible three summers ago.

And for all of the things I have learned I thank my sister for. You have taught me more than you know. And you will be missed for a lifetime and then some. I vowed to myself three summers ago that losing Alex wouldn't define me. I am not who I was 3 summers ago for so many reasons. But time has shown me what truly matters and that life is far too short to not live with your whole heart and with immeasurable joy. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Life is Now

As we grow older and the years go by, life only seems to move faster, and faster. I just finished my third year of college and this is the first time it has really hit me that college is without a doubt going to be some of the best years of my life and a time where I'm meeting some of the best people. When I finished my last final I was talking to one of my friends who was just days away from graduating. She said to me, "Another year down!" and it was weird because it's my third year of college, second and a half year at concordia, but really only my first year of nursing school….so wait what year is that? (I promise I'm just as confused as you probably were reading that) That really made me reflect back on these past few years.

Can I say it again that oh my goodness do these years fly by. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was getting ready for college with so many plans and I look at myself now and see how none of those plans worked out, but that the events that have taken place far surpass any plans I had made and any plans I thought were the "perfect" plans. If these past few years haven't taught me to forget making plans and to trust in God's plans, then I don't know what will.

I'm a planner by nature, I'm pretty sure I was born with a distinct plan for my life. But I've worked so hard to forget about so many of my plans. Plans for grades, plans for jobs, college, relationships, where I'll live, and so on and so forth. Something as simple as planning for tomorrow, can only be planned so much.

One of my professors told our class before our final exam that if there was anything he learned from experiencing so many deaths in his life, it was this one thing. Every semester, he sees countless college students obsess over grades. I am guilty. I am so guilty of that and I'm sure many of you are too. But then he explained that losing so many loved ones taught him that we really, truly only get one go around of this Earth and so many people waste their days worrying about grades. Or worrying about life in general. Not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow and if we spend all of today worrying about one exam in one class in one semester…then we have 100% completely missed out on an opportunity to actually live this life. If today was your last day or your loved ones last day, then what becomes more important? Getting an A on a test and not enjoying the life that we have been so fortunate to have been given, or getting a lower, but yet, still passing grade, but actually soaking in this life? I think we both know the answer to that one.

Because tell me, if we didn't get our definition of a "good grade" in one class, in 10 years, who will care? Not once have I ever brought up my sister's GPA following her death or her ACT score or the grade she got on that one math test in high school. She is worth so much more than that. And so are you.

We're all so guilty of it and I am the first to say I have spent more time than I would like to admit worrying about grades and other events in life that should not have been dwelled upon. But the beauty of life is that you can always start again. You can always look ahead and decide not to do that next time and to soak in the beauty of each and every day. We just lost anther loved one and once again have been reminded of just how incredibly fragile this life is. We've been reminded that not a single one of us is guaranteed tomorrow and while it stinks that a death has to remind us of this, it can be a blessing in disguise when you realize that God is giving you another opportunity to remember life is now and life is happening at this very moment.

So promise me this, that your life becomes more of something worth living and less of something to worry about. That the exam this week doesn't consume you and the job search doesn't steal your smile. That the stress of family and relationships doesn't rob you of the joy found in today and that the cruel happenings of this world don't overshadow the good happening just next door. And never stop reminding yourself that your heart is beating and blood is pumping through that body of yours- because that means you're living. And that life, my friend, is happening right now. Go live it. And especially live it for those who don't get to any more.

And please, don't spend another minute thinking a grade defines you. You are worth so, so much more.

P.S. I also included a picture of my sister and I on her 21st Birthday. While so many photos of the two of us are special to me, this one sits near the top. I'll be turning 21 this weekend and thinking back to my sister's 21st, I am reminded that that birthday was her very last. It's an interesting feeling to know that I'm about to be an age that was her last, and soon enough I'll reach days in my life that she never got to reach. I have always loved birthdays and since Alex passed away, I have only grown to love them more because I can see just how hard it is to not be able to celebrate the birthday of one you love.