Like anyone growing up in a big family, finding alone time can be a truly daunting task.
With strong Irish roots, I was constantly surrounded by my extended family, who all lived close by. As a teenager, I frequently felt drained after coming home from a long day of either school or work, and I rarely wanted to talk to any of my relatives, so I would retreat to my room for my much needed solitude.
At 16, my primary concerns were my friends, keeping up my grades, and a slew of extracurricular activities. Anything besides those three things took a backseat in my life, and my loved ones felt it.
My mom would often knock on my door asking if I wanted to participate in family game nights, movie outings, or was simply in the mood for a mother-daughter chitchat. I seldom agreed, which eventually discouraged her to send me any future invites.
While I'm not proud of being so self-indulgent at that age, I genuinely didn't comprehend how it impacted my family.
But then my grandmother got sick, and everything changed.
When I was five years old, my grandmother became a widow and my parents thought it would be in her best interest for her to move in with us. She had always been a constant in my life, and someone I would go to for both wisdom and advice.
As the matriarch of the family, it was devastating when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 81 years old. She was a fighter, but the odds were against her.
I'll always remember one particular visit with my hero in the hospital. It was just her and I in her room, and I knew she didn't have much time left.
I finally broke down in front of her, admitting I was unsure how I would go on with my life without one of the most important people in my life. It wasn't a fair burden to put on her shoulders, but even in her final days, she always made sure to comfort me.
Along with the typical encouraging words of "you're stronger than you think" and "I'll always be in your heart," she told me an old Irish prayer that she said changed her life:
"May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand."
And it changed mine too. I knew whatever happened, God would be by my side and I would overcome any obstacle that crossed my path.
Following her death, I made it a point to spend quality time with my loved ones, constantly reminding them how important they were to me. It changed my relationships for the better, and I have my grandmother and Irish heritage to thank for that.
What's something special that has brought you and your family closer together?