An avalanche of emotions floods the spirit when the news of the unexpected passing of a loved one is received. Memories and melancholy give birth to tears that seem to deepen the morbid assault. Questions begin to arise in the mind, and it does not take long to realize that the questions are connected to the inability to psychically make sense of the loss.

I do not believe that death is an intruder, but it does have intrusive ways. Encountering death in the unanticipated passing of those who are beloved has a tendency to push you to a place where you find yourself lamenting over what could have been. Dreams and lofty aspirations give shape to quiet moments of reflection, and the agony that ensues can seem unbearable. In those moments, the wounded soul seeks to discover a way out of the morose moment by finding a culpable scapegoat: death. And at times it feels as though death is more than willing to play the role of antagonist.

I recently received word that someone who was very close to me suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. She was a woman who helped raise me. In fact, she would often tell people that she was my second mother. Crystal had an indelible impact on my life. She was the one who taught me my alphabet and how to write in cursive. Crystal was one of my greatest cheerleaders, and she consistently encouraged me to never be afraid to be myself. In my life, she was a pearl of great price who passionately pushed me to be my better self.

When I received word of her passing, I was devastated. It seemed as though the dam had burst and the flow of tears did not want to recede. I was blindsided by grief, and the instant heaviness I felt almost made my spirit buckle. In my younger days, I did not have the emotional resources to handle the moments when death would raise its head and make an uninvited appearance. As a child, I did not understand the permanence of the physical disconnection that accompanied death. In those days, before my faith in God was born and my spiritual maturation was not on the agenda, I was offended by the arrival of death–angry at the intruder. But now, my walk with God has been a source of tremendous strength, and I no longer see death as an interloper.

For every death, there is a new birth, and I have come to realize that death and dying are part of the cycle of life. By no means does this ease the sting that one feels when death shows up without warning, but we are reminded that there can be no life without death.

A few days before Crystal died, she called me and told me how proud she was of me and how much she loved me. I can still hear her encouraging words and feel the warmth of her spirit. I will miss her. I will miss her illuminating smile and her infectious laugh. I will miss her presence, but I thank God for the gift of memory, and the memories of Crystal have grown stronger the past few days. Life is fleeting, and tomorrow is not promised nor is it guaranteed. Yesterday is a faded memory, tomorrow has yet to be born, and today is all that we have. Today, I choose to live, love and laugh!