Defined by Hope

Man, oh man. It’s been a while! I’ve missed you all!

It’s been a pretty cool last couple of weeks. As Whistling & Company continues to take me on this crazy ride, I’m so enjoying meeting and connecting with so many great people.

I got to speak with the lovely women of AXiD sorority at Elon University a few weeks ago. We talked all things vulnerability and hope. It was a beautiful night.


I got to attend Business Boutique in Nashville, a summit for women entrepreneurs and small business leaders. Such an awesome event (and a great excuse to visit friends in Nashville!).

It’s been pretty neat couple of weeks to say the least. (Also, the CUBS won the World Series!!)

I also had lunch with a friend that I hadn’t seen in a while. We caught up. We talked about family and life. The waiter had to come back three times because we hadn’t gotten around to looking at the menu. We just jumped right in, story after story. At one point we talked about Whistling & Company. She paused and said me, “You know, I hope that you don’t let what happened with your mom define you.”

The statement was made out of care but it stung for a second. I never want to be defined or pitied for my loss. She was giving me the freedom to dream about other things, possibly imagine my life had my mom not died. In that moment though, I paused and considered her question. Has my mom’s death come to define me?

This is something I’ve wrestled with as long as Whistling & Company has existed. I never want to benefit out of something so horrible and sad for my family. I never want my mom’s loss to be my gain.

The truth is, the loss of my mom is inescapable. The old life I had with her is unattainable, impossible to recreate. Dreaming about what could have been is pointless. It only adds to the heartbreak. The only option is to live here and now without her while remembering her. When I think about what I am defined by, it’s never the loss of my mom. I think we are defined slightly less by actions and more by the underlying attitudes that actions stem from. We are defined a little less by what and a little more by why. Actions can be misinterpreted, misrepresented and have backwards intentions. Our attitudes are more transparent.

I hope I am defined not by my loss but by my attitude towards it. I see my loss. Lord knows, I feel it. But I trudge forward (most days).You do, too. We are a community defined by hope. We bask in it, savor it and cling to it. Hope is our daily bread. I have been sustained by the hope that is active and real in this community.

And while it’s true that my mom’s suicide is not my weight to bear or an act that defines my mom, let alone me, I cannot not acknowledge it. I want to fight back.

I’ve learned if we let only those affected by certain tragedies be the ones to speak up for themselves, often there would be no voice left to hear. For instance, if we let those that die by suicide be the only advocates for suicide prevention, there would be no advocating. If we wait for folks that have lost their lives to breast cancer to advocate and tell us what that experience is like, we’ll be waiting an eternity.

We cannot operate as silos. We cannot wear blinders and speak up when we are only affected or when we only have first hand experience of something gone wrong. There is no time for tiptoeing. We have to overlap and entangle. We have to reach out and advocate for others. Our world depends on it.

When I was young, I never imagined my life would look like this. My mom loved Louis Armstrong’s song What a Wonderful World. I would hear my mom singing and like Louis, we dreamed of blue skies, birds chirping and friendly conversations. Instead, this morning in my car, that song came on the radio and I teared up as I  waited for the light to turn green. I can dream and wonder what if or face the reality that happy songs make me cry sometimes. But I live on the assurance of hope existing in this world.

And since I’ve learned that hope sustains me, I want to be in the business of creating more of this boundless resource. Hope takes little to create and multiply. But it is a choice. For me, it takes just a sun-ward glance to be reminded of it.

Hope often stems from reminding myself of all that is good amidst the mess. My mom is gone. I’m really sad about that. But I also have the best dad and the best brother. I have an awesome, supportive family and many friends that whistle with me. I have a home that is heated on chilly mornings like today. I live in a city that is vibrant and alive. I could go on and on.

During Thanksgiving last week, I got to gather with our big ol’ family. Right before we ate, we circled up in the kitchen and clutched each other’s hands (and a few Kleenex, too). We were sad for all we’ve lost but I felt warmth from how we all beamed in gratitude for all that we have and all the hope we recognize, even still.

My cup overflows.



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