When was the last time you noticed how the sun shines through the windows? 

Often, so much of our identity gets caught up in what we do for work, who we work for, where we go to work, how much we get paid to work…work, work, work…

Our other roles in life too often become a blur. 

Keeping so busy, we can miss out on enjoying what makes us light up. But sometimes something happens to us that forces us to SLOW down. Suddenly, the other roles of our identity outside of work powerfully come into focus.

Last year, after losing a dear friend, Amy Miller, to breast cancer, I took a long pause to gain clarity about how I want to show up in life. But this will not be a post about grief or sadness, as that would not be something she wanted. 

I recently asked Amy’s husband if it would be okay to share publicly some of the golden nuggets I learned from how she helped others each day. He graciously said it was a wonderful idea.

How Amy found light in the darkest of days has given me and those that knew her inspiration beyond what words can say.

But here goes…

    Kindness rocks that were painted and distributed around Amy’s house by her local running community last fall

The way Amy lived her life is a much needed example of how to keep focused on joy and kindness, despite the bad news mounting.

Even as her time here was looking to be way too short, Amy focused on the positive. As she wrote in one of her last, heartfelt blog entries,

“I like joy, I like to bring joy, I like to be in a room filled with happy emotions that are filling people up, not emptying them.”

No one questions how dedicated Amy was to serving others at her job. 

More importantly, no one doubts how committed she was to showing up authentically to all the other roles she had in life.

I hope that sharing this glimpse into how Amy approached life sparks more of us to stop unconsciously working so much. It’s time to give more of our full attention to what brings us joy. 

The Roles Where Amy Sparkled

A kind neighbor who always waved and you wished you had spent more time with.

A dedicated runner with SRMRTT who chose to keep a happy pace during times when others would have stayed home under the covers.

A heart-centered supervisor who kept showing up for her team even on many days when it hurt to move.

A brilliant leader in social services who exemplified that happiness matters in the workplace and grows organically when you make time for having fun, sharing food, giving gratitude, and building authentic relationships.

A soulful writer whose personal blog was never intended to go viral, but rather serve as a place to process her journey and offer hope to others going through a similar battle.

A community volunteer who bravely shared her voice to support Life With Cancer, donated her time to her local PTA, and used her creative talents to brighten the day for others around her.

A one-of-a-kind friend to many, who taught me about the soulful differences in the word surrender versus release…and so much more in treasured conversations that I will never forget.

An angel on Earth, who despite her facial muscles going numb as cancer returned and the side effects of medicines took their toll, she could still figure out a way to grin big with her eyes.

A spirited warrior who could have chosen to stay sitting on the couch with less discomfort the last time I saw her, but instead chose to rise up and show me the delight of a miniature fairy garden.

A cherished daughter whose parents continue to give grace and show abundant love for all who miss their girl.

A grateful wife who insisted on sharing a final sunrise at the beach with her husband that she adored having as her best friend and love of her life.

A beloved mother who, long before and after cancer disrupted her life, made every effort and more to create and soak in special moments with her two amazing kids. 

                                        Amy and her husband enjoying time together

I am sure I have left many of her contributions off the list, but this gives you an idea of the reasons why there are so many wonderful memories that people who knew Amy can reflect on.

The energy she brought to each role never seemed to be about trying to be perfect, rising to the top, or monetary success. She would be the last person in the room to want the spotlight put on her or microphone placed in her hands. 

But Amy would step out of her comfort zone time and again to do those things when it meant that others would walk away with a more positive outlook.

Most of all, her shining example has taught me that at the end of a work week, there are three questions that are always worth my time to reflect on. I hope you see their priceless value, use them to keep a optimistic mindset, and share them with those you care about. 

I picture Amy’s spirit beaming like the brightest sunflowers every time more of us slow down and ask ourselves these three questions:

  1. What actions of mine helped others around me feel joy?
  2. Who have I expressed gratitude to?
  3. When was the last time I noticed how the sunlight shines through the windows?

“My only wish is that out of this darkness of cancer I leave behind a light of joy, hope, kindness, and love that my friends and family can see and never take for granted.”

-Amy Miller