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The last few months have been rough but not for the reasons I expected. Back in February I wrote a post about grief that I feel like was a stepping stone experience. By that I mean I never planned on one of my friends from high school passing away so unexpectedly. She changed my life forever because of her kindness to me. Her funeral was the first time I have been to back to a church since I am no longer a member. Let alone it was the church I grew up going to, the community is small and tight knit, so I was a little nervous.

In so many ways, I was surprised at the love and peace I felt in the chapel sitting in the back row of maroon cushy chairs that my grandparents would always sit on during church every Sunday. I haven’t sung hymns in a congregation for quite a while and the hymns we sang took on new meaning to me as I sang I am a Child of God, and I stand all amazed from a new perspective. Being there at Shannon’s funeral, I had much grief and sadness for so many reasons. As I sat there and cried, I was reminded of the overwhelming feeling of love and acceptance from my Heavenly Parents, from my family, and from my small-town community.

Her death was a shock, and in many ways, I feel like it woke me up to live my life with a renewed dedication to Christ and to live life to the fullest every minute I can. She did so much in her short life, and she was always Christ like and kind to everyone around her. I feel like it was a rude awakening that we never know when our time is complete here on earth and in so many ways it helped me look at my life in a new way to see what my life goals and priorities need to be.

In the last couple of years, I have lost many I know and love, for a variety of reasons and Shannon’s funeral was the first funeral I was able to attend. It was the first time I allowed myself to be sad for those who had passed away. Be it by their own hand, unforeseen circumstances, age, or other health related complications, there were many I felt grief for losing. I also grieved the loss of my membership in the church. Since this has been a huge life adjustment for me, I felt on some level a disconnect from Heavenly Father and Christ. I felt rather alone and forgotten, and slightly angry. It has been a challenging experience and a story for another day.

As I was crying, my sisters on both sides reached over. One took my hand and the other put their hand on my shoulder. Further down the row my parents were sitting and I know crying as well. Listening to the speakers and the beautiful music the tears kept on coming. My dad is known for his amazing patterned Kleenex and one was passed down the row to me and my sister handed me a Kleenex with hearts on it. She quietly said, Dad says he knows you have Kleenex but you really need this one!

He didn’t have to say it for me to get the message of how much he loves me and how much he wanted me to feel loved, and not alone. I will probably always keep this Kleenex because it is a constant reminder of my dad’s love for me. I also was reminded that even if I can’t see him there all the time I am reminded that his love is a constant so much like our Heavenly Parents love for each one of us.

Since Shannon’s funeral, I feel like I have been in survival mode going through highs and lows much more than normal. Fighting the fear of leaving this life earlier than I want, or of losing another and others I love so dearly too soon.

There are times of calm where I feel like it will turn out ok, and there are times where I feel the calming influence of the Savior much more closely than I have felt this year. I know that if there is anything I can learn from Shannon it is that by loving others and always being kind it can have a huge impact on them. I don’t think Shannon ever knew the influence her kindness and friendship had on me, or how big of an impact she had on my life. I hope she knows now that the small acts of kindness meant the world to me and her life touched so many.

I am still so sad that she is gone and I just hope I can make whatever time I have left in my life count. I hope that I can accomplish things that are life changing for others, I hope I can offer support and kindness to others when they feel alone. I hope I can bring people to Christ and to turn to God for peace even when they are afraid he isn’t there or that he doesn’t care.

I hope that we can find peace and strength and courage to make our lives something we can turn around and smile at knowing we made the most of what we got.