My silence this past week wasn’t planned or intentional. I couldn’t ever have imagined the circumstances that caused it, until they happened. Last Monday morning I lost someone very dear to me in a series of devastating events and have been, quite honestly, reeling from it ever since.

It has made me think about so many things. That life is so very fragile and that we don’t always stop to appreciate it. We just go and go and sometimes forget to stop. I have noticed the smell of the air so much more this week.

It also made me realize that life is sometimes brutally unfair and often doesn’t make sense. I wonder why some people are dealt a very different deck than others and when does it all even out?

And It taught me to stop and ask my loved ones around me many more questions than I ever have thought to before. Even the hard questions. To stop and ask questions and appreciate the fleeting moments I have with them.

One thing I didn’t expect is that this week I’ve found that I’ve become gentler and kinder to strangers. Maybe it is the spirit of the person I lost lingering with me… they were the gentlest and kindest person I knew.

I grew up with some wonderful family meals, but I haven’t stopped often enough lately to sit at the table. I spend time traveling and exploring traditions around the country.

And I find comfort in all of the traditions that families have continued for so many years.

I’ve also realized that the word “family” can mean so many things. For some people it is that traditional Leave-It-To-Beaver-style group of people, and for others it is a collection of friends and loved ones. To me the true definition of family is love and commitment–whether you love someone and are there for them in the most tragic of circumstances.

There will be people who disappoint you when you realize they aren’t family in the way that you thought, and people who come through in the most inspiring of ways that it brings you to tears just as much as the loss.

It is all a medley of emotions and experiences which in the end comprise that thing we call life.

Loss teaches you to stop and notice the smell of the air, or the bubbles of flat bread on a hot skillet.

It makes you wonder why some people live until they are grandmothers and grandfathers and others go too soon.

But as someone told me this week, the coming together after death, the recounting of the person’s life and legacy, and the carrying on of that legacy is really what life is. Eventually we all fade, and the very act of coming together as family to remember that family is the most important thing of all.

Because life still totters forward, and so must we all, even if we don’t want to. That is why it is life.

So I am going to reluctantly take a step forward too, but I’m going to stop and notice the smell of the air more often and sit at the table with family much more. That is the gift my loss has given me.