Inspiring Lives 14: The Importance of Family, Kindness and Accepting Loss
Family is one certain in a world full of uncertainties, and that's why we're celebrating International Family Day. We spoke to blogger Amanda Pahls (@amandapahls) all about how she first met her husband, the tough times they've gone through, and how having a loving family can help anyone to overcome their toughest obstacles.
- How did you and your husband, Chris, first meet?
Chris and I will never stop laughing about how we met! I’ll try and set up the scene. It’s 2004, we’re college freshman, I’m maybe hung over and dressed in what we will call ‘not my best look’. We were in our University Cafeteria, and I’m standing in front of a TV & and literally shoveling ranch dressing smothered cottage cheese into my mouth using a chicken strip as my utensil of choice when my friend came over and introduced Chris and I :D I knew him after that as Hot Art Student Chris and he knew me as That Weird Chicken Strip Girl :D We didn’t begin dating until two years later, and have been inseparable since, but to this day Chris will joke, “I can’t believe I married the chicken strip girl”. So, maybe not a love at first sight story but it makes for a good story and we will never stop laughing about it. Oh, and I’ve been working on my table manners and Hot Art Chris has only continued to get hotter and hotter:D
- Life isn't always kind to everyone. How do you both approach life with such positivity and love?
Chris and I both understand that you can’t take life too seriously. We have learned to really value the good moments, as we understand it is these moments that will help get us through the more difficult times. We both value kindness and try to remember that the person honking their horn at us maybe just found out they have cancer, or the mean lady in line at the coffee shop is maybe grieving the loss of her best friend. We understand that people are hurting all around us and believe we are called to be kind and loving to all people at all times. We both share the belief that everybody has a story to tell, everyone’s story is very valuable and sometimes these stories really just need to be shared and listened to.
- You've both lost family in the past, something that can be so difficult to cope with. How has family helped you to find the light at the end of the tunnel?
Chris and I were dating when my father and 17-year-old sister were killed in a tragic car accident. I kind of lost myself for a while. I hurt in a way I didn’t know was possible and I was hurting even more deeply for my family, watching them grieve. I know watching my family and I hurt the way we did was difficult for Chris. I remember Chris not really giving me advice when I was really hurting, but just trying to be there and listen to me when I needed it. He still tries to do this.
Chris lost both his grandparents in the same week and my water actually broke with our first daughter the morning of their funeral. As strange as this sounds, we gained such interesting perspective through this. Although we will all experience extreme sorrow on this earth, there is still immeasurable joy that happens alongside this sorrow as well. However, sometimes you have to choose which thing you’re going to give more attention to, the sorrow or the joy.
All of us will experience loss and difficulty but we also all get to choose how we respond and react to these difficult times and painful emotions. After the loss of my dad and sister, I reacted in many ways. Some reactions were good, some were damaging, but in the end, with Chris’ love and support, I went back to school and became a therapist so I could walk alongside people who were going through their most difficult times and be a part of their healing process. We have learned, though, that you don’t need any kind of special degree to walk alongside people and help; we can all do this every day.
We can take the time to visit with the person checking us out at our your local grocers, we can be kind and buy someone’s coffee behind us in line at the local coffee shop or simply compliment and encourage that sleep deprived mother trying to convince her toddlers why they don’t need that candy that they’re letting the world know they need… You’ll be amazed at the connections and relationships that will form around you if you take the time to do these simple things daily. Listening to people’s stories and sharing ours can have so much power and impact on the world around us. Chris and I believe we were made for connection and community and these are ways we have learned to join together as a family and connect with others around us no matter what season of life we may be in.
- Moments are so rare because they come and go so quickly. For you, what family moments will you always hold close?
When it pertains to loss, I will never forget the moment I held my father’s hands or touched my sister’s beautiful face and said goodbye to them for the last time as they laid in their caskets. I can’t help but cry and breathing sometimes becomes difficult when I think of this moment, knowing I wouldn’t see them or touch them in this life again. However, when I think of this moment, I also begin to think of the many unforgettable memories that made saying goodbye to them so difficult. I remember the first time I held Bethany in the hospital when she was born and being so excited to have another little sister. She was such a spunky, compassionate and genuinely unforgettable person. I remember my dad sharing with me, shortly before he passed, the regrets he had as a father and asking me for his forgiveness while expressing his deep love for me as his first-born daughter. My mind is flooded with memories of family game nights, road trips across the country and so many of my dad’s corny jokes that I will forever be grateful for!
I have learned so much from my family and so much more in having to say goodbye to them. Their loss made me realize I will say goodbye to other loves ones before I’m ready to, so I am trying to be more aware of this and hold tightly to the happy moments, especially as a wife and mother.
When it pertains to my family, there are so many memories that will stay with me. The moment Chris asked me to be his wife, the moment we promised to love one another even through the hardest of times, the moment we became parents and every moment we met each one of our daughters for the first time. So many moments, which might be considered mundane, have become so precious and almost sacred to me because I have learned that forever is a lot shorter than it sounds.
- What does family mean to you and how do you enjoy the little moments?
To me, family is a gift. I don’t necessarily deserve my family or this life of ours, and yet they have been given to me and I to them… And for that, I am so thankful. There are some days I almost can’t believe how blessed I am! Before we had children, I was such an extrovert. Now, I’m happiest at home hanging out with our family! I love and look forward to the days where our calendars are empty and all we have to do is to hang out with one another! Movie nights, dance parties, baking and making meals together, playing outside, watching the girls play together… Even cleaning the house is so much more fun as a family! I know my family is a gift and I am so thankful and continue to grow more and more thankful! I think the best way to embrace family is to understand that it truly is a gift and to try my best to act in a manner that reflects this gratitude.
- Finally, what does motherhood mean to you?
Motherhood. So much can be found wrapped up into the word Motherhood. Motherhood is one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. Motherhood is a huge responsibility, a new identity, a constant dance of evolving and adjusting. Motherhood brought with it new insecurities, new challenges, new opinions, new fears, new convictions, new emotions, new abilities, new passions, new hopes and aspirations, new relationships, new priorities… To me, there was almost my life before motherhood and my life after motherhood. Motherhood is not the only thing that defines me, but it is a confounding element that has completely redefined me.
You can read more about Amanda and Chris' family over on the blog. Let us know in the comments your stories about family, loss and how you overcame it.