megs beach135Life. It’s just one word, but it’s so powerful. It’s the essence of our being. We all make different choices in life. Sometimes another person’s choice impacts our life. When that happens, you realize how little control you have over your destiny. Through grief, I’ve learned life changes lead to hidden rewards.

Dealing with loss

It started out as a quiet Friday, just like any other before a holiday weekend. We chatted about our Easter plans hundreds of miles apart. Megs was home in CT for Easter break. At the time, I lived in South Bend, Indiana. I was trying to make it as a reporter.

That Easter weekend was not exciting for me. Living alone far away from family hoping to make it in my first job, I didn’t have any Easter plans. I played soccer Friday night, and got home late. It was tough to sleep, and I thought I drank too much Gatorade.

A thousand miles away, Megs was enjoying Easter break with friends. She went out to a concert to relax after a week studying for exams and interviewing for teaching jobs. Her life was ahead of her. Graduation was just weeks away.

In a flash, it all didn’t matter. Megs was gone, and my sleepless night made sense.

The phone rang in the middle of the night to alert me to the accident. I picked it up on the second ring, already wide awake for some unknown reason. After all, it wasn’t too much Gatorade. It was that sick sense shared between sisters that something terribly was wrong. Megs wasn’t coming for another visit. The woman I knew was gone forever, remembered only in my heart.

Life long memories

Instantly, I thought back to our visit two weeks prior in Syracuse, the surprise Christmas trip, and previous summer vacation. Three occasions where we put each other first and visited each other spending quality time. We both had no money, but put our sisterly bond first and saved up to make our trips possible.

Megs drove through an ice storm to come to Syracuse to hang with my friends, which with Megs meant “our” friends. Being so close in age, we shared and got along with each other’s friends. My college friends embraced Megs when she visited her big — actually little in stature — sister. I’m reminded of that last trip in horrible winter weather every March. Megs came to Syracuse to watch the ‘Cuse advance to the Final Four. She didn’t care about my team, just sister time. Every March Madness I am now reminded of that amazing risk she took driving through terrible weather. The memories are the best reward. That was the last time I saw Megs alive. She was killed two weeks later.

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taking risks in lifeThe previous summer we took a leap of faith and jumped out of an airplane in an awesome girls weekend. Something I will forever cherish.

Time flies; grief never heals

It’s been 11 years, and this weekend is exactly as it was then. Good Friday followed by the day of shock and then Easter on Sunday. A day that will forever be marred by the memory of picking out caskets. Not exactly what I thought I would be doing for my 21 year old sister. Easter will never be the same for me.

It’s been a long, challenging road full of twists and turns. It took many years to collect myself, contain my anger over the injustice of what happened, and open my heart so I could love again. I lost the closest thing to me — the person who could answer my sentences — and knew me inside out.

The years of legal maneuvers leading up to the trial, then an early release, and request to end probation early weighed heavily on me. Just when I thought I was doing better, there was a new and unexpected legal fight. I found it hard to heal constantly dealing with the court system, but I vowed to never stop fighting for Megs.

None of it really mattered. Nothing would return what I lost, but I committed myself to standing up for my sister. The healing process finally started seven years after we lost Megs.

Life changes lead to hidden rewards

When I lost Megs, I lost a piece of myself. I had to find my new normal. My husband helped me find that. He taught me how to love again. Not only love another person but love life again.

I continued to pursue my career, and dragged him along the way. Having been through his own significant loss, we both know what life is really about. If anything, we have gained new perspective on life from our losses.

In the TV business, it is easy to get caught up in the numbers especially the size of a market. Last year, I faced a turning point. Move to a city because it was simply a bigger market or move to a city that offered a better lifestyle. We took a risk, and packed up our belongings and moved to Florida.

There were many critics along the way who told me I was making a huge mistake. I ignored them. You get used to ignoring critics after you’ve lost someone so close and so suddenly.  Throughout the last eleven years, plenty of people have told me how I should be grieving and handling the stress and emotion that accompanied my loss in. Plenty of people also told me why I lost my sister even though there is no reason. It was bad luck and bad timing. Megs was on the wrong road at the wrong time. All those things people told me still make me cringe today. They gave me tough skin that’s for sure.

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I once again ignored the critics, and listened to my heart and the guidance of my closest friends who have stood by me for eleven tough years.

rainbow after stormAs my windshield wipers dried up the last of the raindrops on my windshield, a rainbow appeared in the road in as I drove the last few miles in Ohio. I had hundreds of more miles to drive to Florida, but that rainbow was a sign to me that I knew I was making the right choice. Sunshine awaited to wipe away all the tears and agony of the last eleven years.

It was a big risk to move to Florida, but it’s offered great reward. Fast forward a year, I am living in a city and state I should have moved to years ago. It is not about the size of a city, but the circumstance. I am working at a TV station that is the dominant leader in the market and state, and exposing stories and issues that haven’t been exposed for years in this community. I feel I am making a difference in a place I am happy to finally call home.

The beach. The sun. The warmth. What is not to love?

A place that reminds me of Megs. She went to school on the beach, and loved all it had to offer.

Finding joy after loss

Losing Megs was the worst thing in my life. It turned my life upside down. That being said, I learned the true value of life. I am the first to admit my life probably would not be what it is today if she were still here. I probably would have chased an elusive dream rather than focusing on my husband and the personal things in life that fulfill us.
Life takes unexpected twists and turns. I never expected the dark path I would have to walk. Luckily, Megs left a few angels to walk that path with me. In honor of Megs, live each day to the fullest and take risks. They lead to the greatest rewards.

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Thanks to all my friends who guided and pushed me along the last 11 years. Some of you never knew Megs, and those of you who did still stick by me knowing the scar sometimes still bleeds often at the most unexpected times. Thanks to all who still remember a young woman who touched so many of us in her short time.

My friends have given me so much. You allowed me to walk this painful journey and guided me as I took a big risk. Now I want to give back to you. Come visit me in Paradise. A place where I feel closest to the sister I love no matter how long ago I lost her.

More risks and more rewards

Two years later, another life turn. Another risky decision, that’s brought the best reward yet. I was emotionally torn going back to work after my daughter, Meghan, was born. I finished out my contract, and my heart told me it’s time to change directions once again.

My daughter needed me and needed our family to be stronger. The only way to accomplish that was to leave the profession I love. It was the hardest decision. Again those naysayers. Many told me I was making a huge mistake. I hesitated and waited. The longer I waited the more I knew the right decision for our family was to leave. A big risk with another hidden reward that I only saw after I made the leap.

We packed up our belongings and moved back to Kansas City so our daughter can grow up with her cousins. It brings such joy to see them interact. It’s the best. Spending so much time with her is so rewarding. She’s grown so much and is a better focused individual today because we’ve been able to work through her challenges in ways that were not possible if we both worked.

Now, I focus my time building “Consumer News Mom.” It’s a new site, a new name, a new look. It’s the same content my personally branded site brought you for years. There’s more content and gives me more time to focus on my two passions: writing and building life memories with my daughter.