We hear about it all the time: terrible things happening to good people.
It just doesn't seem right or fair that parents should be taken from their children, or children from their parents, or that innocents should suffer, but it happens. And often, we can't change it.
As we know (or should have figured out by now) when we can't change a situation, we can change how we react to it. We have a choice. To descend into despair, or to rise up and be inspired by the lives of those around us.
Three years ago the members of my extended family were faced with that choice when my cousin Madeleine (pictured at left) died of cancer at 31, leaving behind her two very young children. Shock, grief, anger...all of these emotions rocked those close to Madeleine when we lost her. When I look back now, three years later, I am inspired not only by Madeleine herself (a truly amazing woman who was loving, generous, insanely funny and possessed the greatest store of common sense of anyone I've known before or since) but also by the actions of those around her:
By Madeleine's parents and her step-father, who were 100% united in their devotion to Madeleine and continue to be an integral part in their grandchildren's lives.
By my cousin, Madeleine's sister, who helped care for Maddy's children through the year of Maddy's illness (and her daughter's first year of life) with utter selflessness and devotion, and who continues to inspire me as the mother of beautiful twin daughters, miracles in their own right.
By other cousins, who sat for hours at Madeleine's bedside, sometimes sharing over fond childhood memories, and sometimes just sitting and offering silent togetherness.
And by my own sisters: Allyson, who cared for Madeleine (and her immediate family)
through her illness and death in her role as Clinical Nurse Specialist
at Princess Margaret Hospital Palliative Care (and who continues to support and care for people daily in palliative care); and Jen, who organized and held
a gala event, raising nearly $40,000 for a trust fund for Maddy's
children. And then, inspired by that experience, she went on to create this amazing and supportive community of women that has become urbanmoms.ca.
But I see it every day now: ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they've been inspired by personal tragedy to acts of such massive generosity of spirit that it boggles my mind: the goodness of everyday people.
There's my friend Michelle, who must have single-handedly raised tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars for cancer research: through charity runs, the Weekend to End Breast Cancer, craft sales and more. Michelle's mom's battle with cancer has galvanized her, and I stand in awe every day of her devotion to her cause.
And my friend Laura, who organized meals, visits and a commemorative gift for a friend who lost her baby son to anencephaly just hours after his birth, and who bravely and generously asked to hear about him, when everyone else avoided the subject because of their own fear or unease.
Then there's Denise, mom to Meagan, and Judi, mom to Nicola who took the illness and eventual death of their own children and turned them into life-saving events for other children.
Moved by the desire -- the need -- to help other people, these are the ordinary, everyday heroes who can turn tragedy into inspiration and goodwill.
Please take a moment to share your stories of finding inspiration in tragedy below, in comments, or send a submission to email@example.com. You can read more about Madeleine and how she touched the lives of those around her here, here, here and here.
Kath is Madeleine's cousin, urbanmoms.ca founder Jen's big sister, and a regular blogger on urbanmoms.ca at Losing It! as well as on her personal blog at This Is Kat.