I was recently faced with the question of whether I knew the difference between happiness and joy.  I have to admit that I did not and tended to use the words interchangeably. Little did this person know that at that very moment, I needed to experience the difference more than ever.  I was exponentially devastated due to the sudden and unexpectedly violent death of a dear friend, Aisha M. Fraser.  I felt void of happiness and joy.  That’s when I learned that happiness is how you feel because of your circumstances and joy is what you experience despite your circumstances.     

Happiness is what you feel when wonderful things happen like the birth of a child, a promotion at work or a wedding.  There are endless examples of why we feel happiness during our lifetimes.  Unfortunately, life also gives us painful burdens to bear and seemingly insurmountable obstacles to face.  It is in these moments of pain and devastation that we must find a way to, so that we can move forward.  Faced with the loss of Aisha, I was heartbroken, angry and at a complete loss.  However, I still needed to be a mother to my babies and find the strength to keep moving.  I had to find some joy, not only for myself, but for them.

Finding joy is not easy.  In the hours and days following the news that Aisha’s light had left us all, I was stalked by bitterness and joy was so elusive.  I was consumed with the questions of why and how could something like this happen?  But as I found the strength to read messages on social media, I was blown away with the outpouring of love for my friend.  She had touched so many lives. I was touched by the pictures and posts that showed her living her best life.  Aisha’s name was everywhere and her life and story was not limited to her tragic end.  Rather, the essence of her life, spirit and light were illuminated for the entire world to see.  There were stories of how she had traveled the world dancing.  I read testimonials from parents of her students who shared how her guidance, love and support had contributed to their strong foundation.   People shared that no matter how much time had passed, they always felt happiness whenever they saw her.  I was reminded of her incredible laugh and zest for life.  

In her 45 years on this earth, Aisha had inspired so many people, loved so many people and helped so many people.  She was a devoted mother, daughter and friend.  I felt joy that I got to experience her love and friendship first hand.  I felt joy that I had talked and texted with her regularly and she knew how important she was to me.  I felt joy that I have so many pictures of her to memorialize our amazing experiences.  I felt joy that thousands of people around the city and later around the country would know what a beautiful person she was.  I felt joy that people of diverse backgrounds of different races, ages, religions and genders were all united because of her.  I felt joy that a light was being shed on domestic violence and that many people felt confident to share their own stories.  I felt joy that despite our horrific loss, countless others would be saved.  I felt joy that people were moved to generously donate to a GoFundMe account established for her daughters.  I felt joy that Aisha had lived a life full of love and had truly found joy before she died. 

I am inspired to live my best life.  And, to live my best life modeling joy for my kids.  More hurdles will come, but when we can focus on the small positives, joy is sure to follow.  Just like the rose that miraculously breaks through concrete to live, I challenge you to live with joy.   Find joy and carry on!   

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