Sarah Stultz: Live your life to make your loved ones proud 

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2022

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Each year as the birthday of my daughter, Sophie, approaches, I try to think of a different way I can honor her. 

This will be my daughter’s sixth birthday in heaven since she died July 2, 2016, and if she were still alive, this year she would be turning 14. 

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Though her classmates she left behind are growing up right before our eyes, are in high school now and will soon be driving, I will forever remember my daughter as the bright-eyed, big-smiled 8-year-old girl who had a zest for life. 

She loved her family and her friends, but she also loved most people she met and had a way of softening up even the hardest of hearts. 

 As I think about the example Sophie was to me, I think about how she lifted me up and made me want to be a better person, and I am reminded how we can all lift up others around us through simple acts of kindness. 

As Sophie’s birthday arrives this year in less than two weeks, I can’t help but think of all of the others in the community who won’t be spending birthdays with their loved ones this year because of sickness, accident or even old age.

To those of you who will encounter your loved one’s first birthday this year since their passing, my heart goes out to you. That day will never be the same. Give yourself space to grieve, but also to remember and to cherish all the fond memories you shared during your time together. 

While it can be difficult, it can also be a time to smile. 

It has helped me each year when Sophie’s birthday rolls around to think of something I can do to keep her memory alive. 

While the first few years after her death that meant gatherings or balloon releases, the last few years it has meant something less visible but nonetheless still impactful. I have tried to focus on a way to share the love with others that she gave to me. 

If you would like to join me in the next few weeks before her birthday on Feb. 20, find something you can do to help someone #smilelikesophie, and keep the kindness growing. 

It can be large or small, something that costs money or something that is free. What matters is what’s in your heart as you share the love. 

If these last two years mean anything, it’s that we need more kindness in our world. 

Remember it starts with us. 

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Wednesday.