the truth will set you free.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

These words took on new meaning for me during the past month. In the midst of loss, I celebrated life.

The day after my uncle died, I was supposed to attend a birthday party for a dear friend of mine. I had gone back and forth throughout the day, not sure if I was up to being in a room full of people and not confident that I could hold myself together for the event. Puffy eyes and all, I pulled myself together and showed up. There were some tears, there were some hugs, but most of all, there was love. The room was filled with people who gathered to honor the beauty of life lived together. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when people shared stories of how they met the honored guest and what she meant to them. It was a timely reminder that what matters most is that we communicate our love to others in a way that can be understood and felt, not simply assuming that they know how we feel about them.

Later that week, my brother made the trek to Oklahoma to help me celebrate the big 3-0. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect – no one knows my relationship with and love for Unkie better than Dave. We reminisced and laughed and grieved and did things that we know Unkie would want us to do. It was a joy to spend time with him – and a comfort. I lucked out in the big brother department, for sure.

One of my favorite moments of Dave’s visit was when I introduced him to some of my dearest Oklahoma friends. It meant so much to me to have so many of the people I care about most together in the same room. I can’t imagine what this time would have been like without the friends who have mourned with me and celebrated with me, seemingly simultaneously. My heart is still broken, but it is full. So many things bring memories of Unkie to my mind each day. I try to turn them into grateful thoughts, but sometimes all I can think of is how much I wish I could hug him again. The ones we love never truly leave us.

I’m learning more and more each day the beauty of a life lived with others, for better or worse. For so long, I’ve struggled with the self-imposed pressure of appearing that I have it all together and that I can handle whatever comes my way. And that’s exhausting. Our vulnerability is one of the most precious things we can share with others, and it can be terrifying to offer it without knowing how it will be received or responded to. But the only way to cultivate genuine relationships is to be honest, even when it’s not pretty. Especially when it’s not pretty. We’re all just trying to make it through the day. Sometimes we just need a little grace, a kind word, and a reassuring hug to remind us that we’re not in this alone. Thank goodness for that.

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