A New Definition of Love — Gained Through Life’s Pains & the Unknown

This life can be a jungle.
Full of unknowns, twists, and turns.

How does a person gain his or her bearings when it’s this way?

Each day we’re faced with challenges (some with the power to knock you down on your arse).

My first realization of this very fact came when I found out my parents were having marital problems when I was about 7. The second came when my dad died. I was just 10-years-old on that summer day. It was a heart attack that stole him away.

The world turned upside down. A darkness set in. For years, I was in a foggy haze. My schoolbook photos reveal this girl with sad eyes and a half smile.

That was my story (for years).

Yet, gradually I learned that out of darkness and difficulty can arise something significant. Actually, many things significant.

Like perseverance, to start. Understanding. Compassion. Passion. Individuality. Strength. Truth. FORGIVENESS.

It took me time to FORGIVE the universe for yanking the carpet (the life I knew) from under my feet. I was well into my late twenties when I finally became okay with it all. When I decided I didn’t want to own the same old story anymore. Rather than being the kid that lost her dad, I decided to become the woman who was thankful for the challenges that were cast my way.

I thanked the universe for the lessons I had learned.

“I’m so sorry your dad died,” said a good friend of mine one day.

Before I could even think, I threw out the following reply: “While I miss him so much, I wouldn’t be me if he had lived. I am who I am partially because he died.”

And with that reply, I realized I had found a new sense of freedom.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago. My world was flipped upside down. My relationship of five years ended. The sense of home that had been created (by my ex and me) was no more. Soon thereafter my mother became ill. And now her illness is back.

Just a week ago, I spent countless hours with her in the hospital. Seeing her struggle has been so painful for me.

I’ve evolved into my mother’s guardian and protector. This reality is one I had only heard about, not yet experienced. My father’s death was so sudden — it almost seemed unreal. But before me is my fragile mom (my best friend) asking for me to give her drink. To help her turn over. To read to her. To say an evening prayer — just like she did after I was tucked in bed as a child.

One evening last week, she was in pain and flustered in her hospital bed. I knew that holding her would make all the difference in the world. So I climbed onto her hospital bed and wrapped my arms around her. In seconds, I could feel her body relax. When all was calm and good in our immediate world, I pulled out her tablet and turned on her favorite show. One that makes us both laugh until tears come to our eyes.

As we watched and giggled together, I realized we were experiencing a perfect moment — pure bliss — in the middle of a scary time in life.

The next day I found out that Mom was so relaxed when I left that she didn’t even need pain medication. A bit of laughter and a whole lot of love gave her the peace she needed.

It’s understandable that we human beings desire ease of living (I do with all of my being) — but, unfortunately (and maybe even fortunately) the difficult moments that we face have the power to transform us forever. To make us better, bolder, and braver.

I have no idea what is in store for mom and my family (and this freaks me out!!). But what I do know is that through the pains and joys we are experiencing, we’re learning a whole new definition of love.

– Jen Engevik
Project Be Bold


  1. This is a great read and it really hit close to home for me and what I’ve been dealing with too. Persevering through the most difficult times instead of being weak and seeking easier alternatives (e.g.- alcohol, drugs, etc.) as a means to cope with these hardships is an aspect to which an individual has to deal with. I can understand those who do stay in the negative and take the easy way out but staying positive and seeing the brighter/lighter side of things is much more rewarding if you can grasp that idea and accept the given situation. Wish I could talk to you about this… Such a great discussion here…. But I’m glad that you are embracing the special moments with your mother…. ***Hugs*** from your friend Alex K.(from softball).

  2. So sorry to hear of your Mom’s illness Praying for healing, peace, and comfort The past two years have been hellish for me too but in my darkest moments I lay still and remember God’s promise that he is always near and knows our struggles This gives me hope and faith that “all things work together for good” Love you Jen

  3. Love your thoughts Alex. Thanks a ton for sharing. I look forward to seeing you at softball this next week. Have missed a few days, but will be back soon. Hope you know how much I appreciate you!!!

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