Thursday, February 16, 2012

Laugh, smile, love

My New Year's resolution was to update my blog more often. You can see how well that has worked out for me. The past two months have been a bit of a blur though… two Christmases, two New Year's, an amazing trip to Spain, two grant proposals, a few small projects, a Peace Corps conference and sadly, a heartbreaking loss in my family. Let me back up a bit… 

Christmas came and went in a flash. Gus and I were lucky enough to spend the holiday together in Tbilisi. We opened presents by the fire, Skyped with our families, and enjoyed a few comforts from home like hot chocolate, homemade cookies and candy canes. A few days later, we flew to Barcelona for 7 glorious days where we soaked up the sun, took hot showers every day (!!!), ate incredible food, saw some beautiful sites and just enjoyed our time together. 

Unfortunately, while we were there, I received news from home that my aunt was in the hospital after having stroke-like symptoms. It turned out to be metastatic melanoma and within a month, she was gone. I had booked a flight home in February to spend some time with her, but I was too late. She passed away January 29, 2012. 

My beautiful Aunt Kathy
My Aunt Kathy was one in a million. Not only was she my aunt; she was also my godmother, my confidante and my friend. She always took time out of her busy life to let me know she was thinking about me... thoughtful cards in the mail, a book that she knew I would love, a pair of earrings so I would always remember to honor myself. She celebrated my victories and encouraged me when I was down, and she was the only person allowed to call me Suzie-Q. I loved her so incredibly much and I was truly loved by her. I miss her more than words can even begin to describe and not a minute goes by that I don't think about her. 

While I was trying to wrap my mind around all of this, a part of me wanted to pack my bags and go home. I started questioning my priorities and wondering if I was selfish to stay here when I should be home with my family. But then I realized my aunt would want me to stay. She has been one of my biggest supporters through this entire process, from applying to waiting to packing to actually being here. She would never want me to give up my dream. So, with her beautiful spirit in my heart and the sound of her laughter in my soul, I'm continuing on with this journey.

The last few weeks have been the hardest weeks of my entire life, but at the same time, I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be, doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. And I know without a doubt that my loving aunt is close by, making sure I remember to appreciate life, love those around me and enjoy every minute of this experience. Because that is what she would want... for me to laugh, smile and love.