My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.                 ~ Jack Layton (1950-2011)

Recently, as Canadians and many people internationally know, our “beloved Jack” died, after a fight with cancer. I spent much of Saturday watching his life celebration and state funeral, crying the entire time…simply overcome by grief. Grief for a man I never met, but whose integrity, class, and courage I admired greatly. I voted for the man, and genuinely hoped that he would become our next Prime Minister one day.

Why was I crying for someone I didn’t know? Good question…I wasn’t. I was crying for the sudden loss and the grief his family must feel. I was crying for the inspiring depth of his words at a times when his pain and his family’s pain would have been greatest. I was crying for his struggle, my struggle; his losses, my losses; his family, my family; his disease management, my disease management. I was crying for the awareness that life is so short – and there is no time to take life for granted. I was crying for the realization that we are not so different from Jack – we all have battles we must face, and time does not always work in our favor, no matter who we are, nor how much privilege we may or may not have.

For me, in my family I have seen short lifetimes and family members lost too soon…a grandfather to cancer at age 50; an uncle at age 54 to cancer; a mother at age 56 to stroke; an aunt at age 53 to cancer. I have experienced my own “near misses” a few too many times for comfort, and worried about my sister’s health as she ages. So, I was crying also for myself – my own fears and worries about dying too soon, and leaving my family alone. One of my biggest fears has always been leaving my boys without a mother…even writing this makes me shake. Given that my grand mal seizures come on so suddenly and dramatically, and in potentially dangerous places sometimes, it is unfortunately not an unfounded fear. My boys are everything to me – and the thought of “abandoning” them by dying unexpectedly is terrifying at times. Rational, maybe not…but a fear nonetheless.

When a vibrant person such as Jack dies at such a relatively young age…it simply highlights how precious everything is; how fragile; how tenuous…and yet how solid. But it also inspires. Jack’s struggle and death, and his amazing final words to Canadians, resonates so deeply within me, that it solidifies my own personal inspiration to keep moving forward, keep being optimistic, keep choosing happiness every day.

When one is struggling to manage a chronic illness, be it MS, seizures, depression, etc… maintaining that personal inspiration is critical.

How to maintain personal inspiration and optimism in the face of your chronic illness:

1. Make a conscious choice every morning to be positive and optimistic. Choose to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.  Over time, you won’t even have to think about it – you’llsee it as half-full.

2. Be consciously grateful everyday for the little things in your life. All the little things add up … and there is a lot to be grateful for, if you are willing to see.

3. Invest yourself in something you are passionate about. Be willing to be vulnerable in sharing that passion.

4. Find a mentor, teacher, or guru to model – someone that inspires you, and whose approach to life resonates within you. Allow yourself to be deeply inspired and moved. This can be a personal friend or family member, or simply a celebrity you follow in the news… it is your choice.

Thanks, Jack – your life has re-ignited my own personal inspiration. RIP.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” Albert Einstein