It’s funny. When you’re 17 and in high school, you don’t ever think that tragedy can happen. You go about your day to day business and worry about things like your popularity, getting scholarships, and starting in your high school volleyball game. Would I have ever known that just 5 short years later we would lose three of our friends, classmates, teammates, brothers and sisters? No. I didn’t have a clue.

Death is a funny thing. The sad thing is, most of us don’t think about it until we’ve personally encountered it. We trot around living like we are invincible and thinking that nothing bad can happen to us. Then we are given a harsh reality check and we hold our loved ones close, praying that something terrible doesn’t ever happen to them or us.

We say that every moment is a gift, but how many of us truly treat life like this? We say “hold your loved ones close tonight,” and “Live like it’s your last day.” But how many of us live by our words? Do we really thank our family and friends for being there in our lives, and for the friendship, laughs, and memories?

My fiancé is an EMT and I am all too familiar of death. Before him I always thought that death only happened to grandparents and elderly. I never imagined that death could happen to babies, mothers in their 30s, and young kids in their 20s. I never imagined that people I knew would have to go through such hurt, grievance and sorrow. It has made me sick. It has made me paranoid. It has made me scared.

I have learned that life is not guaranteed, and that each day is a gift. We really can’t count on tomorrow because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. I hope to God that I can grow old with my fiancé and watch our babies grow, but that may not be in the cards. That’s why I have to accept this reality and continue to live my life. I choose to live my life in despite of senseless tragedy.

An old high school friend and teammate died suddenly this weekend, and it just doesn’t make sense. She is the last person you would ever expect to leave this Earth early. The 6th grader in me who spent time catching tadpoles with her by my pond and playing against her in summer softball would have never imagined she would pass away right after college. As much as I try to, I can’t understand a random accident that could take such a beautiful, smart, and successful 24-year old. A recent graduate, a nurse, and someone who was really going to change the world. I just can’t make sense out of it.

But tragedy is senseless. We will never be able to make sense out of it.

We need to all live by example. We tend to say things like, We will live our lives because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed! …but then forget our mantra a month later and complain about the most ridiculous things. We need to live in gratitude and be appreciate of everything we have. We need to forgive others who have done us wrong and be kind to each person who we encounter. Every person is fighting a private battle that you don’t know of.

We need to simplify our lives. Because love is all that matters.

Our small town has seen too much young death lately, and it make me very sad. And all of these people have been taken in the most random, senseless way. No, it will never make sense, and I’m not trying to make sense out of it. But I am trying to unify others in despite of tragic senselessness.

I challenge you today to let go of any feelings of hatred or frustration against people whom may be holding you back from loving. I challenge you to be kind to others even when you are struggling to do so. Because in the end, love is all that matters.

What legacy do you want to live? Let’s choose to live by example. We only have one life. How do you want to live yours?

This post is dedicated to Matt Samsa, Shawn Dobry, and most recently, my dear friend Beth Rieth. All beautiful lives lost too soon. I hope your families and close friends find peace.