An Example of Personal Strength & Gratitude Despite Heartache

by Jayne Kopp on March 8, 2011

personal strength & gratitude despite heartache
Could you maintain personal strength and gratitude despite suffering immense heartache?

I suppose it would depend on the degree of heartache for most of us, and even then I’m fairly positive that our views of challenges are usually trivial in comparison to others.

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I shared the importance of learning to be present and to enjoy each moment of life which is something I’m making a concerted effort to do.

The day I wrote the post I had attended my daughters cheer leading competition with my mom and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it but what finished the day off perfectly was a conversation my mom and I had with my friend Dorothy while driving home.

I’ve only known Dorothy for just over a year. I met her at a cheer leading practice shortly after my daughter joined the team.

About a year ago, when my Daughter Rosie joined cheer leading, she was a little shy and didn’t always jump right in to participate.

It took a few kicks at the can to build her confidence, and frankly I had doubts as to whether she’d actually settle into her new activity at all.

One day, while trying to encourage Rose to participate, Dorothy came to sit down beside me.

We started talking and I shared with her the fact that I was feeling a little worn out with it all!

She laughed and encouraged me that Rose would be fine. She then went on to comment on her grand daughter “Ally” who has never had an issue with shyness; she also expressed how thankful and proud she was of Ally’s confidence level despite the challenges the family had faced.

I have to admit I was curious at this point and couldn’t help but ask what these “challenges” were.

As Dorothy started to explain, I realized she is the grandmother of a little girl who lived only a couple of blocks from me who lost her life to brain cancer in 2006.

At that point, my perspective shifted and I realized how I was deeming Rosie’s lack of confidence to be a ‘challenge’ when in actuality it didn’t even rank on the scale of being an issue in life! In other words I had an immediate perspective shift!

Dorothy also shared that in addition to suffering the loss of her beautiful grand daughter Hannah, a year later, Kathy, her daughter (Hannah and Ally’s Mom) had also lost a battle to breast cancer and leukemia.

If that’s not enough, the whole string of tragedies occurred after Dorothy lost her husband.

While I listened, I’m sure my mouth was hanging open, yet Dorothy maintained her usual positive tone and was (and always is) the poster-lady of personal strength and gratitude.

Now, I’m just going to digress a little and explain that I’m aiming to convey a lot in this post. There is background to this story, both surrounding Dorothy, her past, but also the way she draws on her personal strength and gratitude to see life positively as well as she “chooses” to accept life the way it is and make the best of every day.

Because there’s a lot to explain, I’m breaking this post down in to sections in order to clearly share the many pieces contributing to my message.

How I knew Hannah Hatlen’s Story:

As many of you know, I live in a small town on the west coast of British Columbia. We have a wonderful community of people, and although it has grown a lot since I arrived in 1974, we’re all connected in one way or another, and while we may not ALL know each other personally, if there’s anything of significance, word gets around!

A few years ago when my daughter was born, I belonged to a ‘moms’ group. We met every Thursday to have a visit and a coffee and show off with our beautiful bundles!

I can remember as clear as a bell the day I attended one of our Moms meetings and heard the news that a precious little girl in our neighbourhood had been diagnosed with a form brain cancer. Her name was Hannah Hatlen.

I’ve tried to find the words to describe Hannah’s short life but felt you’d get more out of it by watching this video summarizing the heartache suffered by the Hatlen family and the impact this has had on our community.

Our Random Conversation:

During our drive home from the Cheerleading Competition on Saturday, for one reason or another, my mom happened to mention her dear friend “Vi” who has also suffered a string of losses during these last fifteen years.

When my mom was talking to her friend Vi, one day, the conversation turned to the subject of if we cold could live life over.

While my moms’ friend Vi is an incredibly strong and positive lady as well, Vi’s response was “oh Pauline, I don’t know if I’d have the strength to go through some of it again”.

Frankly, I can’t say I blame her.

Now here’s where the conversation becomes incredibly inspiring and magnifies the power of mindset and the importance of making the decision to focus on personal strength, gratitude and living in the moment:

Dorothy’s response was that she would live her life over again… and although, I could see Vi’s perspective, I am in awe of Dorothy’s courage.

Dorothy then shared two other personal stories that we were not aware of: Dorothy’s first marriage didn’t work out (same as me) but she also lost a son at the age of 7, many years ago.

She then went on to explain the fact that we have no choice BUT to accept the cards dealt in life and have a decision how we are are going to handle them. (Not exactly in these words).

She acknowledges naturally, that while losing her son, Kathy and Hannah are nothing less than tragic but that she “accepts” this as part of her life.

If she hadn’t married her first husband, she would have never had her son. She knows she was blessed and entrusted with him and gave him the best seven years of his short life.

She would have never had the gift of her wonderful Daughter Kathy, who in turn gave her the gift of Hannah and of course Ally; nor would she have her other incredible daughter Cheryl who is a pillar of support and a wonderful person.

She also has an amazing son-in-law, Tore (Kathy’s husband, Hannah and Ally’s dad) and of course little Ally, who we all adore.

She lives each day in gratitude for what she has and holds on the memories of the people who have moved on before us.

Though she admits, there are some days she feels a little off, like the rest of us she makes the personal decision to be the best she can be, and make the best out of every day.

For the rest of us:

If you are reading this blog right now, I am asking you to count your blessings and learn a thing or two about personal strength and gratitude from this post.

We all face challenges from time to time, but I’m hoping you will put them into perspective.

The purpose of this post and my message all along is and has always been to help you to enjoy each moment of life, show gratitude and be grateful for everyone you have. Draw on your personal strengths and scoot through life taking time to smell the roses along the way.

If you wish you could live life over, let it only be to take Erma Bombecks advice and hug your kids and dear ones often.

If you find you sweat the small stuff & petty problems as part of your daily routine, perhaps you need to come back and read this story and take a leaf out of Dorothy’s book…often!

Focus on the Law of Relativity, and then move on to build your personal strengths, live life to the fullest, and count your many blessings.

If you found value in this post, I’d love you to share it amongst your friends and on any social networks as well!

Here’s to personal strength and gratitude and that we don’t lose sight!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Nelly Paekukui March 15, 2011 at 11:54 am

Hi Jayne,

This is great and timely as there are so many heartaches with recent tragedies that have overcome many.

When things may appear so bleak, the blessings that we recognize helps to brighten the circumstances in putting things into perspective.

Thanks for a beautiful post.




Jayne Kopp March 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Hi Nelly, thanks for reading. I know exactly what you are saying. We as humans need to count our blessing first and foremost don’t we. We have so much to be thankful for and must embrace it every day. Thanks for leaving such a heartfelt comment.


Jayne Kopp March 11, 2011 at 10:29 am

Thanks so much Steve for taking the time to stop by. I think everyone can benefit from looking on the outside and seeing what other people face. We all need to work on embracing every moment like it’s our last and that loving our family and friends and being grateful is all that really counts.

Thanks for stopping by.



Larry Rivera March 11, 2011 at 3:48 am

Hi Jayne, thank you for sharing this story it touched my heart.

I would like to share a story with you about my friend who recently passed away. He was 28. I met him thru his brother who I taught martial arts too. We both thought it would be a good idea if I started teaching his brother Tai Chi. Which I did for 10 years.

Tom developed cancer when he was 3 years old, kemo therapy stunted his growth so while both of his brothers where well over 6ft tall he was only 4’11 tall. But he was a survivor.

In the 80′s he had a blood transfusion and contracted hepatitis as a result of that his kidneys went bad and spent the last few years of his life living on a dialysis machine. He never had a girlfriend and never really experienced life the way that a normal person does. Still though he was a survivor.

He was thankful for what he had and was grateful for his life. I taught him 4 days before he was rushed to the emergency room, he passed away 2 days after that.

While I was his friend and Sifu (teacher) he taught me the greatest lesson in my life.

You should be grateful for every moment you have on this planet. If all you have is your health that is so much more than millions of people.

Nothing can replace the moment you are in right now, treasure it as if it was your last moment on earth.

Thanks again for sharing this story..


Jayne Kopp March 11, 2011 at 10:32 am

Oh Larry, how I appreciate you stopping by and sharing this with us.

Wow… we are SO lucky, yet we often go on a pity potty and whine about things that don’t matter a darn.

You are so right, we never know what the future holds, even if we haven’t endured the personal challenges that so many people do.

I am so glad you got to spend time with your friend before he left. Perhaps he was put on earth to teach you lessons as well as the people around you. (and us)

Thank you, thank you!

I’m so glad this post added even more to what you already know!




Marcus Baker March 11, 2011 at 3:16 am

Hi Jayne,

I agree with the other commenters that you relayed a very moving and inspiring story here.

Putting things into perspective is such great advice and we need to be reminded of this often. Thank you.

Your post reminded me of a time in my past when I was complaining to someone about how “terrible” my life was. Naturally I was consumed with “Why me?????”.

She entertained my self indulgence very patiently and then turned and said,

“Have you ever considered that this may be God’s way of giving you reasons to practice seeing what IS working in your life?”

I have never forgotten it.

Now often when I find myself moaning about something I think… Hmmmm what am I meant to be seeing that I’m not? and it immediately changes my thought route.

Thank you for your bringing this inspiring message into my life today Jayne! :)



Jayne Kopp March 15, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Hi Marcus, thank you for your comment. I am sorry for this late response, somehow it slipped under the wire.

It sure helps doesn’t it, to have a friend point out the obvious for us to see it.

I am pleased you could relate.

Thanks Marcus!


Stacy March 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm


What a beautiful post, it is amazing what some people go through and how strong they come out as a result because of how they choose to look at everything.

I wrote a post on gratitude as well today and I just linked this post to it.

Thank you for sharing!


Jayne Kopp March 9, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Hey Stacy, thanks for your comment and linking to it.

Yip, there’s sure a lot to be learned from this example. Sometimes I could kick my own butt for being so daft.

I’ll pop over and read your post shortly!

Thanks & Talk Soon!



Steve Nicholas March 9, 2011 at 11:59 am

Great post, Jayne! Right now, I’m reading “Happy for No Reason,” and this story reminded me so much about the chapter that I read this morning. The most important thing to remember no matter what is going on is that our outlook will be a far bigger factor in the things that happen to us than the actual thing itself. She went through tragedy, but she decided that it wasn’t going to bring her down, and I’m so glad to hear how she is doing!


Jayne Kopp March 9, 2011 at 8:46 pm

HI Steve, thanks for the comment. I have never read the book Happy for No Reason. sounds like one I’d enjoy.

I think that we may as well succumb to whatever happens and just accept it. We can’t change it, and feeling lousy only makes everything that way. (not that you wouldn’t for a bit)… but like Dorothy says, on the days she feels off (like many of us do) she just ‘decides’ to make the best of it.

Thanks for your comment as always Steve.



Mavis Nong @ Online Business Tools March 9, 2011 at 5:53 am

Hey Jayne,

What a powerful and moving story you’re sharing here! I find Dorothy and others absolutely amazing and inspiring. I have learned a lot from them – going strong and staying positive despite the challenges they encounter in life. That is remarkable. Wow!

Thank you so much for the inspiration and the reminder to show gratitude and to be grateful for what we have.

All the best,


Jayne Kopp March 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Hi Mavis, I am sorry for the late response. I obviously need to take a lesson from you in the organization department.

Yes, Dorothy is truly an amazing person. I am working hard to learn from her incredible attitude.

Thanks for stopping Mavis. Its a pleasure to see you as always.


Kisane March 8, 2011 at 10:01 pm


This has to be one of the most beautiful, inspiring and uplifting posts I’ve ever read. I had tears at the end of the video – such courage and strength in the face of such incredible adversity.

Yes, it does indeed inspire to build on personal strengths, live life to the fullest and count our blessings.

Every evening before going to sleep and have my ‘Gratitude Moment’ where I reflect on the things I’m grateful for and this post just strengthens my resolve to always keep up this practice.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this amazing story about truly amazing people like Dorothy, Tore and all the other strong, supportive family members.



Jayne Kopp March 9, 2011 at 9:10 am

Hi Kisane, thanks so much for your comment.

Looking at the situations and heartbreak some people face makes us realize how blessed we are in contrast.

People like Dorothy are very special and strong, and true examples of personal strength. The thing that’s amazing too, is I don’t think Dorothy realizes how unique she is.

I like your routine of counting your blessings. I’ve become better in that regard too.

Thanks so much for leaving such a heartfelt comment! I thought we could all learn something.



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