Before Jacob died I was afraid of getting too close to people. Not because I didn’t like them; it was because I knew one day I would have to let that person go and say goodbye. My naïve self thought that never opening my heart to others was worth it if I didn’t have to experience the inevitable pain later. Jacob taught me that it was okay to unwrap your heart – think of it like a limited edition comic book: It’s okay to let it out once in a while and read it – and let others in. Since his death, I have been actively trying to open my heart and it has provided some remarkable moments in my life. I have met and married the man of my dreams and we have a beautiful son. Before, I was afraid to fall in love because I thought it was easier to live alone than to have my heart broken. Now, instead of thinking about the end of something in the future, I embrace the now. It’s okay to take risks with your heart – it will pay off in the end, and make your heart that much bigger.
Open your heart and allow others to see what’s inside. You never know, but you just might find yourself in someone else’s during the process. When my brother was sick, I asked him if there was anything he wanted to do in life. For the most part he was content. But there were two things he wanted. One, he wanted to be able to walk on his own feet, unsupported by a wheelchair or cane, across the stage to accept his high school diploma (he had recently had surgery that prohibited his walking. He was confined to a wheelchair for a few months since he was partially paralyzed), and two, he wanted to own land. I know owning land is not the normal dream of an 18-year-old boy, but that is what he wanted. When my brother’s name was called to accept his diploma, he stood up on both feet, walked across the stage and grabbed his diploma and walked back to his chair and sat down. The entire auditorium erupted with cheers as he received a standing ovation. With tears in my eyes, I watched my brother accomplish one of his goals when he had only a few days left on this earth. Just know that it’s never too late to accomplish anything. Set your mind on something and never give up. Don’t be afraid to take risks and accept challenges and obstacles that stand in your way. Limit your nos and replace them with yeses. Say yes to things that scare and excite you.
By taking these risks and putting yourself out there, your vulnerability will show through and amazing moments will transpire right before your eyes. Dreams you never thought were possible are now a closer reality. Also, you’ll probably fail once and make a fool of yourself. Who cares? Don’t be afraid to look like a fool if you’re having fun. Don’t be afraid of failure. It’s okay. It makes you stronger. So, get back up and start over. But, just make sure you try new things. Don’t get to the end of your life and still be saying: “I’ve always wanted to…” or “I’ve never done that…” Don’t live your life with a “maybe one day” attitude. Make that “maybe” a yes by swallowing your fears and insecurities and step up and say, “Yes, I would love to do that.” If you do this, you’ll find yourself at the end of your life saying, “I did that” or “I tried that.” Isn’t that better than just wishing and dreaming? Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can’t do it by yourself. Remember when you were younger and your parents willingly helped you out? It wasn’t because you were useless; it was because they loved you and wanted to help you. And later on, when you became too cool to ask your parents to help, you might have prayed to whomever you believe in to help you out. Begin this process again. Stop being so independent. Look at the people in your life. How many of them would jump at the chance to help you if you only asked? Now, ask if you would do the same for them. If you can’t answer either question then you need to reevaluate some of the people you associate with. Make sure you surround yourself with people who inspire you and others. Seriously, no one wants to be friends with someone who constantly looks down on others. Make sure these inspirational people lift you up and encourage you to become the best version of yourself.
I mean, let’s face it: you’re not going very far in life without a little collaborative effort. Take others with you and allow their voices to be heard with yours. Let those shared memories and experiences you created together spread to others who help, too. By doing these simple things you’ll be amazed at the small changes you will begin to see around you. Embrace the change, because remaining stagnant will only make others alienate you more. Allow others to use your heart, say yes, and never be afraid to ask for help. I daily thank God for my brother’s time on earth, because even today, eight years later, he is still inspiring and others. Without his death, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and even though it’s an odd thing to be thankful for, I am. I am thankful that through his illness and sickness he was still able to be an inspiration and teach me things even up to his last day on this earth. Inspiration comes in all forms; why can’t it be from someone who hasn’t walked this earth in eight years, but still reminds me daily to be thankful for life?