A reminder to live each day with purpose

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So here we are at the threshold of a new year once again — out with the old and in with the new. With 2018 just hours away it’s customary to pause and remember, whether with joy or sadness, what has happened over the past year.

It’s been a mix of highs and lows for my family. We celebrated the engagement of our oldest daughter (the one planning a wedding on a glacier in Alaska next June). That was a high point of 2017 and we’re looking forward to her big day.

But we also said our final goodbye to my mother-in-law, who passed away just before Thanksgiving. Her eight children gathered in rural Wisconsin in early December to remember the life of a mother they so dearly loved.

This was the year we moved my mother into a memory-care unit as her dementia worsened. She has settled into her new home fairly well, but continues on an agonizingly slow decline. Christmas sent her into a tailspin. Her subconscious seemed to be reminding her of all the things she should be doing — writing Christmas cards, buying gifts, baking — and yet she has no ability left to do those things. She turns 89 in January.

The past year brought lots of fun times with our 2-year-old granddaughter. She certainly is a joy in our lives.

Beyond the personal front, 2017 was a big year for local and national news, too. A devastating wildfire season topped the list here at home, and take your pick of natural disasters that plagued our nation this year, from hurricanes to floods in coastal states and Puerto Rico to the catastrophic wildfires in California.

The Daily Inter Lake chose “A Year to Remember” theme to feature local residents who have had an extraordinary year, and I wrote two of the feature stories. I caught up with Elaine Snyder, a Kalispell woman who is still recovering from injuries she sustained when the second-story deck of a camp near Lakeside collapsed.

Tomorrow you’ll read about how Jerri Swenson has rebuilt her life after losing everything in a house fire in January.

The tragedies they survived were an immediate reminder that nothing in my life was anywhere near as devastating as what these women have endured, and that I need to be more mindful of counting my blessings. It’s hard to imagine being unable to walk for more than two months, as was the case for Elaine, who spent the summer recovering in Brendan House after breaking both ankles in the deck collapse. It’s also hard to imagine losing all of one’s personal belongings, as Jerri Swenson did.

I was struck by Jerri’s take on life now.

“It has changed what’s important in a way I didn’t know in my bones before,” she told me. A longtime Whitefish therapist, she said she now values relationships and family even more than she did before the fire.

We don’t know what 2018 holds for any of us, but we can purposely live each day and celebrate life on a daily basis. To you and yours, a happy new year.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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