So, what have I learned this year? Well, I'm getting married in a few months, so I've certainly been able to keep loving, and being loved. I have more close and supportive friends than ever. And my brother and I are striving to spend more time together, and to treasure each other. Because every moment we don't is a waste.
Most of all, though, I've figured out how to use the pain and loss as inspiration. Fitzgerald said that new writers have to sell their heart.
So, I've been trying to sell my heart. I wrote about losing my family and finding a new one, in my short story "No Greater Love Than This". And in my new book, "Scolding the Winds," I'm writing about finding the meaning of life at the bottom of a well of loss.
I hope I never forget about this anniversary. Every summer, for the rest of my life, will be tainted by this experience, but it will also be elevated, punctuated with importance. I want to spend every summer thinking, if only for a moment, about the people I love, and how I'm treating them. The people I've forgotten about, and how to reconnect.
If I ever have children, I want to spend a moment every summer thinking about turning my back on them. I want my heart to break, for a second, at the thought.
Because there has to be a purpose for all of this. I don't believe in fate, destiny, or karma. Life has no meaning other than the one we give it. Moments have no meaning other than the ones we construct.
So this is the meaning, the purpose of what my family did: It is a reminder to me to never do that. To think about how trivial it is to give up on people, and to stop loving people. And to never, ever, let it happen.
I'll never see my parents again, but I'll never forget them. The meaning of life, for me, is this: "To love, be loved, and support, and be supported."
It's the greatest lesson my parents ever taught me.