I have never been lucky enough to see a shooting star in person. I have seen them in photos, in movies and on greeting cards. People who do get to see one report how incredibly amazing it was to see, how fast it flew through the sky and how bright a fiery blaze it was. Oh, how I wish I had ever seen one........
Or....maybe I have.
Today, in the "Let Your Light Shine" series I want to introduce another guest blogger!
Ashley is one of the newest members of my big old Irish brood of a family. No, she isn't a little baby who has just been born and no, she isn't a new bride who has just married a family member. She is my new cousin....one of oodles! Ashley and her 3 sisters Natalie, Stephanie and Leah, along with their mom, Mary Jo, were the newest people crazy enough to want to be a part of our family a few years ago......and we are all blessed by them.
They are brave.
They are strong.
They are resilient.
They are compassionate.
They are beautiful.
I know all of these because shortly after they joined our family, they suffered a huge loss and showed us these characteristics in how they lived through it...and still are.
One cold February night in 2010 Leah and Natalie were traveling home from spending the day cheering on their high school's boys swimming team at the state competition. The roads slowly became not the best of traveling conditions and they were in a car accident. Ashley's sister, Natalie Kate Bolin, passed away that night in the accident.
Today, almost 3 years later, Ashley has written down her thoughts about Natalie and the light she still shines.
Sometimes I cannot help but wonder about the beautiful woman you would have become, the experiences you didn’t get the chance to have, and the life you would have lived whole-heartedly. For a moment I pretend your life on Earth didn’t end on that dark February night in 2010 and I see you graduating from high school, finding your own college, growing up and living your dreams. Although I thought we would have our entire lives to laugh, grow and be together, I know that someone else had a greater plan for you. Despite the fact that you are not here in person, you continue to live on in the hearts and lives of your friends, family and people who never had the chance to know you. You have shown us the power of bringing people together, the magic of smiles and laughter, and the joy of life. You are the light that saved us in the heart of our greatest sorrow. You have always been my sister, soul mate, and best friend, but now you are the shining star that guides me each day of my life.
While your death was a turning point in the lives of many, we refused to let it be the defining moment. From the very moments after the accident we knew life had to go on: for Leah and the other girls recovering in the hospital, to keep your spirit alive and for each other. As difficult as it was to move forward, we were able to do it because of you.
Throughout your life you approached every situation with a smile; you were and still are our bright shining star, our Natalie. In the midst of our darkness you reminded us that the light hadn’t burned out, we had only lost our way. As your star continued to brilliantly shine, you gave us strength to find our own light. You provided the opportunity for our beam of life to burn even brighter. We realized the only way to move forward after losing you was to live as you would have lived; to hold our loved ones tighter, count our blessings every day and focus on spreading your contagious, happy light of life that we love so much.
For every day that I don’t get to spend with you, you inspire me to do my best and remind me that every day is a precious gift. Your beautiful smile is a daily reminder for us all to do the same. For the last three years the Natalie Kate Memorial swim camp has been bringing people together while creating special bonds and lasting friendships. Instead of recognizing the anniversary of your death, we celebrate your birthday with a blood drive, a birthday swim and a Swedish pancake breakfast. You remind us that the sun will rise as we wear your favorite color, purple. Your spirit has taught us that love, laughter and faith are the only answers for all the pain; you have helped us transform the darkness into light and hope.
Even on the hardest days you give us the strength to keep on shining. We remember how lucky we are to have you in our lives and know you are always with us. When I left for college the first time in 2008 you sent me a card that said “I love you with all my heart and that will never change. Stay strong and call me whenever you’d like”. Underneath your words you drew a shooting star. While I would give anything to be able to make that phone call right now, I can’t help but smile every time I read the card. You are my hope when I am defeated, you are my light in the darkness and you are my shooting star for the rest of time.
While tragedy and heartache are never someone’s chosen path, sometimes going through those struggles is exactly what we need to grow, learn and come out even stronger. We can’t change the past and we can’t control the future, but we have power over our reaction and approach to life. We can’t stop the darkness from happening, but when we make our way out of the depths and find life, we create a light that is beautiful, unique and everlasting.
Thank you Nat, you have given us an incredible gift that can never be repaid. You have given us hope and guidance, reminded us to smile and shown us how to find our light.
Your star lights the whole sky.
With all my heart,
Here's the thing about shooting stars. When you see them with the human eye, they only last for a short time, are very bright and make you gasp at the breath-taking beauty. That sounds like what Natalie did for so many.
But.......if a photographer taking the picture of that same shooting star were to slow the shutter speed so that the lens is open much longer the shooting star looks much different. It looks like this.....
This shooting star's light remained in the sky for a long time. This shooting star's light changed colors across the skyline. This shooting star's fiery tail stayed bright.
I didn't know Natalie long or very well at all. But I am blessed to be getting to know her extraordinary mom and sisters better all the time. I am inspired by the love they have for each other and people around them. I am encouraged by their strength to carry on when that is most difficult. I am moved by their compassionate natures that motivates them to help others in Natalie's name.
I think that Natalie's light is definitely a shooting star. But not that one that we human's can see. She is the one that God sees, with His lens pulled back and open for longer than we are able to.
She is a beautiful enduring light.
She is a fiery far-reaching blaze.
She is a light that remains in the sky lighting the way for all to see.
May you recognize the shooting stars in your life.
May you write a letter to them today.
May you be grateful for the lights that light your way.