I believe in turning every negative into a positive.
When my brother Scott committed suicide in 2000 I was living in Italy, far from my family. To my surprise, after hearing the news I felt a strange feeling of relief for him. His earthly suffering was over. A flood of recognition and meaning came over me: He could not stay here with the living. But I could. I wanted to be here.
Looking back on my life so far I was able to recognize that every single time I thought it certain I couldn’t make it through something especially difficult or challenging, I did. And I was still here.
From each struggle I had become stronger and now, with this death, I felt certain that I could move forward through the tragedy and make it out on the other side a more resilient person. My forty years of life were my proof.
At that moment, I made a decision to keep looking for the lesson in each and every experience of my life and it became a little game I would play: If our mom hadn’t died when I was two years old, I wouldn’t have lived in California with my aunts. If I hadn’t lived with my aunts, I wouldn’t have had all those cats and dogs and ducks and chickens or gone to Disneyland on my birthdays or sang in the choir or taken the train from the West Coast to the Midwest once a year. It became clear to me that those years of traveling made me an easy voyager and that having no real roots, I was able to leave the United States and live in another country! Losing my mom made me brave! Worldly! Flexible!
Our family was not the closest, but my brother’s passing gave us a common ground to stand upon and we found the courage to share not only our fears and sadness, but the memories that reminded us that we were, indeed, a family and this death was making us more resistant as a unit. I began to see the changes in myself; in all of us. There was
something beautiful coming from this experience.
I can find something good in everything. When I take responsibility for my choices and mistakes I am empowered. Regrets don’t really figure in. I am an active participant in my life and so, I am not a victim. I can learn from every turn. Dance with any partner. Walk through any storm. I have only to look back and see that the sky did not fall!
Most days when I get up in the morning I think about my brother and feel lucky that I want to be here. I chose to learn that from him and for that opportunity I will always be grateful.
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