By Guest Blogger Lauren Bowen

As I stand at the edge of this mountainside I remember back to that crisp fall day in 2007 when I tearfully said “YES!” to the man on one knee. The man who would become my husband, the father of my child. The one who I would spend forever with. Or so I thought.

In life we tend to think that every day is guaranteed, every relationship is forever and none of those bad things will happen to us because we are not “those” people. In the best seasons of my life I once thought the same, yet now I am one of “those” people. That man that I screamed YES to on the side of that mountain, the man of my dreams, the father of my child was ripped away from my daughter and I tragically and unexpectedly last August.

On August 14th I began to go through the motions of planning a funeral, making arrangements and preparing to tell my 5 year old daughter when she woke up that her Daddy would never be back.  All of this seemed so unfair and “Why me” set in pretty thick in my thoughts and daily routines. I was feeling sorry for myself and this situation that I now found myself in. I began to worry about the future, and what that looked like for myself and my daughter. How would I pay the bills? How would I support my daughter and I? How could I possibly do this on my own? I couldn’t was the answer. I couldn’t possibly begin to tackle this huge life change alone.  But as I began to look around at all the friends, family and even people who didn’t know us that were reaching out to help in any way possible, I was struck with immediate gratitude.

That first Christmas, I realized how hard it was going to be to have to celebrate when I still felt such a loss. Although I was grateful for all the invites to parties and gatherings, I politely declined. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to be social. We packed up our van a few days before Christmas and graciously drove to stay with family. Although Christmas Day was an extremely hard one as I looked around the room at my family and the smile on my daughter’s face, I knew we had made it.

Life after the new year began smoothly until I received the invite for the Daddy Daughter dance that would take place at school. I was crushed. Something that was supposed to be an exciting time for little girls was going to be such a hard one for my little girl. When I talked to my daughter about it she told me not to worry that she had decided to take her uncle to the dance. My heart felt full again and as I sent them off the night of the dance arm in arm, I knew we were going to be OK. Someone was always going to be there to be sure that they stepped up and offered us what we needed at just the right time.

In this season of life I began to accept my circumstances and began to focus on gratitude instead of how I couldn’t do it.  I started to ask myself why I thought I could not do this, why couldn’t I pick up the pieces that were scattered everywhere around me and seemed impossible to put back together? Why could I not get up and begin to make small steps to create a new path for my daughter and I? The answer is “I really could,” and I chose to do so one day at a time.

Slowly, even with the challenges presented along the way I chose to focus on my gratitude on a daily basis.  I also began to look back to see how far I have come and how much I have overcome. That is what keeps me going.

Today, fourteen months later, I have cheerfully (most of time) accepted with gratitude that even when life takes turns that we aren’t expecting, or life just doesn’t seem fair, the acceptance and a focus on what I do have is key to my continual success along this new journey –  a path so carefully created from tragedy.

Today, I choose to accept me and I am grateful for who I am becoming because I AM strong, I AM able, and I WILL succeed no matter what life throws at me if I continually practice a heart of gratitude.

Tomorrow, October 11, I will celebrate my 10 year wedding anniversary without my husband. I look back on all the wonderful memories we were able to make over our time together and I’m thankful for each one whether it brings tears or laughter. Each one will be treasured forever.

Every day is not easy but it was never meant to be easy. Every day presents itself with the opportunity for us to be thankful for one thing be it big or small. It was upon accepting this that I knew we had made it and we would be OK.

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