This past weekend I read John Green’s work, The Fault In Our Stars. The premise of this novel centers on two cancer-stricken teenagers who fall in love. This book was released in 2012, but because of the subject, I postponed reading it. I knew that many references of cancer lurked in the pages. Reading about cancer transports me to those days with my father and the countless appointments with his oncologist, chemotherapy, and radiation. It is a part of my history I prefer to only revisit when necessary.

From the moment I started reading, the narrator’s voice resonated in a way I did not expect. Her voice carried an authenticity that lingered hours after I read a particular passage. One line pulsed with so much vigor I felt compelled to write about it. “Grief reveals you.” I never pictured grief in this way, but so much about these three words conveyed what I’ve felt for so long, but could not articulate.

In the five years since my father’s passing, the lens in which I view the world altered permanently. Since witnessing his illness, my tilt toward gratitude increased in ways that I never fathomed before. All the particulars of my life harbored a deeper meaning. The privilege of engaging in everyday moments took on a texture that felt palpable. I listened to my breath for the first time, sinking deep into the exhale and inhale, especially on my morning runs. Grief pushed me to consider what a privilege it becomes to be able to read, write, laugh, cry, and participate in the mundane, happy, and messy places in my life. The everyday took on a newer meaning.

My turn toward this new philosophy did not occur overnight. A metamorphosis occurred with a deliberate and slow cadence. I noticed that the trivialities like spilled milk on the counter, sitting in traffic, or my microwave suddenly breaking down, did not translate into any angst, but an appreciation to  be alive to witness these nuisances.

Grief pushed me to recognize how to really sink into the certainty of a single moment.

The experience of grief offered a larger context and infrastructure to map out the landscape that I wanted to mold for my life. Perhaps most of all, it taught me this truth: You stop jaywalking through your life. You own it all: the happy, messy, mundane, while learning to embrace the edges and curves of your experiences.