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My younger sister committed suicide when she was 20. I was 23. The day she shot herself, I was in labor, giving birth to my first baby. I marveled in the sublime joy of a new baby, perfectly formed, radiant and innocent. Joy was coupled with catastrophic grief. In one direction was golden light. In the other, black shock and terror.

The newly arrived baby brought with him of hope and optimism. I loved him with a tenacious ferocity I'd never known before.

I knew that this was an opportunity for me to learn. I dug my feet in and consciously chose to see it that way.

I felt naked and unprepared for the intensity and the polarity of light and dark. I was pulled to live and pulled to die. I wanted to be with my sister, to protect her as I'd always done. I didn't want to let her go.

I saw that, in order for me to survive, my life had to mean more to me than it ever had before. Suicide runs in my family. Ever since childhood I had considered it an option. It was my secret plan for a way out, if "things got worse."

My sister taught me how important it is to LIVE. I began to take my life seriously, to refuse to live a mediocre life. I began to become responsible for the inner quality of my life.. I began to live authentically. I began to reorganize my life around a higher purpose. It was the beginning of a reverence for life I hadn't had before.

Reverence and gratitude are a daily practice. On the anniversary of my sister's birthdays, 36 years later, I take the day off to contemplate. Last year I walked the Labyrinth. This year I may do that, or a house blessing, or a candlelight meditation. I will praise the miracle that life is. I acknowledge that her action put an end to my madness.