25 things I have learned by 25

So last week, on July 5th, I turned 25 years old. A quarter of a century. You’re no longer considered to be too young to marry someone, buy a house or even to have kids. I’m not anywhere near the position to be able to do so, but it is a funny thought nevertheless. It was my fifth birthday without my mom, which still is something I have to get used to. I don’t know if it will ever get easier to be honest. Fortunately I was lucky enough to be spending my birthday with my boyfriend and his family. It made my otherwise rather lonely birthday a very pleasant one.

I feel as if I’ve learned quite a bit since then. I have a lot to learn still, but wisdom comes with age. The last evening I spent as a 24 year old I spent with my love and we just drove around, looking at the beautiful skies as we had a deep talk about how my life has unfolded itself up until this point. It was rather emotional, as I always used to say that I wouldn’t be able to make it to 25. A lot has happened and I’ve been struggling with my mental health for well over a decade. Hitting 25, in a way, was monumental to me. That evening and that talk got me thinking about the things I have learned in my still young life.

So here it goes.. 25 things I have learned in 25 years on this Earth!

1. It is okay to cut toxic people out of your life. You don’t have to relentlessly keep trying to fix a relationship that is bad for you.

2. You don’t need a whole lotta friends. When I was younger, I always wondered why I didn’t have as big friend groups as some of my peers did. I never was particularly popular and could count my friends on one hand. Now that I’m older I only have one friend of that bunch left and made some new ones here in Denmark. They’re always here for me. It’s all about quality, NOT quantity!

3. Be kind to others. It makes yourself feel better, but also others. Be nice to everyone you meet, EVEN if you want to gouge their eyes out. My mama taught me to kill them with kindness.

4. What others think of you doesn’t matter. With that I mean that what strangers think of you is irrelevant. Wear crazy colours if you want to, dye your hair a different colour if you think that that is pretty. The ones that truly matter will love you no matter what.

5. Judging others will only make your self-criticism worse. It just isn’t worth the energy. Live and let live.

6. Stop pleasing others. Making others happy is important, but don’t let yourself burn out in the meantime. Don’t be a doormat. Say no if you can’t or don’t want to do something.

7. Don’t buy something, not even when it’s on sale, unless you absolutely love it. Accumulating clutter is SO easy, getting rid of it is way harder.

8. Stop using ad hominem attacks when arguing. Going for the throat is the quickest way to win an argument, no doubt. It also does the most long term damage.

9. Let it go.

10. Cherish the bond you have with your siblings. I learned this after my mom passed. Living in Denmark makes seeing them hard, but when we do get together, it’s all good. Keep them close. You never know when you’ll need them.

11. Pictures and videos aren’t real life.

12. Everyone has their own timeline. This one in particular was hard for me to accept. Most of my peers are settling down right now, marriage, kids or buying a house. I’m not even remotely in the position to do so. And that is okay. There is no such a thing as a blueprint for life. We’re all just winging it. Some just get it done earlier than others.

13. Your life won’t change until your goals and habits do.

14. Stop playing the victim. It’s easy to sulk in self-pity, but reality is that you’re just holding yourself back.

15. Self care is important, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day. For me it is crucial to have some time alone every day. It is my way of recharging.

16. Exercise!!! Exercise is essential for health. Work out because you’re striving to be healthy, not for aesthetics. Sure, a tiny waist and a bubble butt are nice, but what are those things worth when you’re not healthy?

17. Eat healthy. Unhealthy food is good in moderation, no doubt. I’ll be the first to say a big fat YES to deep fried food, ice cream and cake. But too often isn’t good either. Preventative medicine is the best medicine.

18. If you have the means to do so, travel. Traveling gives opportunity to expand your mindset. There is so much to learn from different cultures and seeing the world from another perspective is never a bad thing in my opinion!

19. Carpe diem. Each day is a new opportunity to improve yourself and be the person you want to be.

20. Cliché, but follow your dreams. Do what makes you happy. You only have this one life, so make it the life you want to be. Don’t settle for a job you’re not happy with or an education you’re not passionate about.

21. Money doesn’t make you happy BUT it can provide comfort. Save up!!

22. Read. A lot. It can be anything, really. From fiction to scientific articles. Feed your mind. It makes you an interesting person.

23. Go out in nature. It is so easy to get caught up in the buzzing city life, but such a hectic lifestyle makes it easy to forget about yourself and the people around you. Nature has a great way to unwind and recharge. For me it’s the forest. My Opa always took me and my sister, when we were little, out into the woods and the energy there calmed my thoughts a lot. Even now, at 25, the forest still has a way of making me forget about all my problems for a while.

24. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you mess something up, laugh about it.

25. Know how far you have come since 16, 18 and 21.

So there’s that. 25 things. I could probably think of about a 100 more, but this will have to do for now. It has been a wild ride so far. I wonder where life will take me next. I used to say that I wouldn’t be able to hit 25. I was depressed, broken and beaten down, but now, at this moment, I truly mean it when I say that I can’t wait what the next 25 years have in store for me. I just hope it will be good.

What are some important life lessons you have learned? I would love to hear them!

– Naiyee

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My North Star

Last week my love and I had our one year anniversary and what a year it has been. He came into my life at the most unexpected time, but I couldn’t be happier that he did. Unfortunately we are not together right now, but in two weeks we will be, since we will be visiting my family in the Netherlands for Easter!

He and I had been friends for years and he decided to come over to Denmark from Finland to meet up in real life. I was still in a relationship at the time, but the chemistry was there from the start. We hit it off right away and had a blast. Shortly after he left, my then-boyfriend broke up with me and we decided to give it a go.

”We’ll take it slow” we said, but very soon after having said that we were sure that we were right for each other. We pretty soon talked about the more serious topics, marriage, kids, careers and all of that. Weirdly enough we agreed on everything. I felt funny about it at first. I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but talking to him calmed the constant chaos inside of me. I have always struggled with feeling grounded and in a way I still do. But just a simple phone call or a text of him reassuring me it’ll all work out seems to make all of the problems I have so insignificant as long as he was there.

I promised myself I wouldn’t put myself through the hassle of a long distance relationship again, but the heart wants what it wants. I booked a plane ticket to Finland to see him and meet his family and we grew even closer. Not just us, but I also instantly connected to his family. It all felt so natural. I found myself often wondering if it all wasn’t just too good to be true, but I guess this is just what it feels like to have hit the jackpot.

I don’t have a penny to my name, a small family far away, just the clothes on my back, a handful of friends and my precious pooch, but I can’t recall the last time I felt this happy. I’m thoroughly convinced it’s because I have found him and reconnected with my own family too. I feel as if I’m a tiny little boat in this big ocean, but as long as I’ve got my north star, I’ll eventually find my way back home.

Like Gordon B. Hinckley once said

”Love is like the North Star,
In a changing world, it’s always constant”

My love always tells me that everything will work out and I used to struggle to believe that. Because how can everything work out? Does it truly do that? But he has taught me that sometimes, it is okay to let go of the things I cannot control. And that is a scary, but comforting thought.

It feels like meeting him and his family too, has given my heart the capability to give love back a thousandfold. And for that I am grateful. Not just for them being in my life, but he as also taught me to appreciate my own family a whole lot more.

He is my north star and I feel grateful to have found him when I did. It has only been a year, but I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Have any of you out there found your north star? I would love to hear your stories.

– Naiyee

My challenge with practising self care

A week ago I went to the doctor. I have been feeling quite on edge for a while now and at first I brushed it off. I told myself not to be such a whimp and just keep going. A couple of weeks ago I hit a wall and I felt like I couldn’t even do the simplest of tasks. I either slept too little or too long, I had no appetite or I’d eat everything in sight, I had heart palpitations and my body developed small aches that I couldn’t quite explain. I also felt like I completely lost my grounding. So I mustered up the courage to go see my doctor and talk about my issue with stress.

My mom always called me a lazy person by nature and I’ve always hated it. So whenever I take time off I feel guilty. Guilty for not using my time better. My daily life consists of this ”rise and grind” attitude, yet this time it has finally bit me in the ass. My doctor told me to make spare time activities a priority, because ever since I started this course I’m currently doing at school, I’ve had to cancel them. There are just not enough hours in a day for me to be active, go to school, make homework, cook food, clean up while trying to maintain a somewhat existent social life. She told me to prioritise the things that bring me joy and give me energy.

So I’ve started to reflect a little.. How would I make this work? What can I do to take this stress away? I recently re-joined our local pole dancing studio here and I have been having a blast, but I feel guilty for not focusing on my homework instead. And as I’m writing this, at my favourite little café in town, I’m feeling guilty for not attending my pole dancing class.

The thing is, being so hyper-focused on being productive, I have lost myself in the process. And I have made the decision to cut down on some things that are incredibly time consuming, just so that I can have my hour or something a day that is not school focused. And I can already feel a huge difference.

I think this obsession with productivity nowadays makes a lot of people unhappy. I’m not telling you to be lazy, but I AM telling you to make time to practise self care. Be it taking a nice bath, eating that food you like, going to fitness or seeing a friend. We need to take care of ourselves first before we can thrive. And there will be guilt. It won’t be easy when you’ve been grinding all your life. But it is good to take a step back and just breathe. So yeah, I may not be doing my homework every day, but I feel a whole lot less on edge. I don’t feel the urge to be perfect all the time.

Happiness is so important. We only have this one precious life, shouldn’t we aspire to live it to our fullest and be happy?

Do you practise self care? If you do, how do you like to do it?

I would love to hear about it!

– Naiyee

The Motherless Daughters Club: Would she be proud of me?

Today marks the fourth year since my mom passed away and it is tough.. Getting through the night and day without breaking down is difficult. On days like these I try to practise self care. I take a day off from work or school to allow myself to just be and cry if I need to.

During these four years without her, I often wonder how she would feel about the decisions that I make. Not having her around to ask for advice is still something I’m getting used to, even after four years. My life has changed a lot in this time span in so many different ways. But the one question that keeps me up some nights is:

”Would she be proud of me?”

I’m not necessarily a validation seeking person, not at all, but the opinion of my mother always meant a lot to me, which makes sense I guess.. Having lost my mom at a young age, the age where you may not be considered fully adult yet and not having to make any serious adult decisions, it is hard to imagine what type of advice she would give in certain situations. Not only that, but also what her stance and opinions would be during difficult times.

Everyone around me always tell how she would be proud and even though those words mean a lot, they don’t give me a lot of comfort, because they aren’t their opinions I need to hear in times like those. That being said, I am extremely grateful for everyone offering some kind of support and/or understanding. It is nice knowing that there are people out there who care. But I feel as if my mother’s words and advice are the only ones that can help me get through it, but she’s gone..

The best way of describing this feeling is like going all the way back to when I was small and mom and I would go shopping. When you’re small, these stores are HUGE! Imagine that and then losing your mom in that big store. But instead of having that uncomfortable and scary feeling slip away and feeling relieved when you find her again, she is gone. Because that’s what it feels like. I feel all alone in this great big world, knowing my mom won’t be there to find her way back to me.

I had to start my adult life without her, having to make a lot of really tough decisions without her. And even though in the back of my head I know that she would be proud, I can’t help but wonder.. I hope she would be. I would just love to hear her say it one more time.

Luckily for me, not all hope is completely gone. I have a great support system of family and friends who are there to pick me up when I fall and for that I am thankful. Without them I wouldn’t have made it through.

And to any of you out there who have lost their mother,

I’m proud of you for sticking through the hard times. You’re a badass and you deserve all the good things in the world. You got this, you always have and you always will.

-Naiyee

Future goals and dreams (and why they frighten me)

As much as I try to live in the now, I still often find myself drifting off, dreaming about the goals I’ve set for the future, some far into the future, others pretty near. I’ve always been pretty driven by nature, but at this point I have noticed myself getting tired. Be it study fatigue or something else, ya girl needs some hibernation STAT! Not happening anytime soon though, exams are coming up and I am BUSY.

I have dreamed of becoming a veterinarian since I was 7, after having assisted with my cat giving birth. It had a huge impact on me and I’ve never looked back. Working with animals and figuring out how they work, both inside and out, kept me busy. I read encyclopedias and other animal related books and really tried my best at school. I was a pretty bright kid. I had an easy time learning and didn’t have much of an issue getting decent grades.

The Dutch school system is a tad bit complicated. We have to do a placement test at the elementary school and from there, it’s kind of mapped out which direction you go into. We put people into boxes from an early age and even though there is an opportunity to climb up, most people don’t and neither did I.

1200px-Dutch_Education_System-en.svg.png

Allow me to explain this with this little chart above. I remember going into this placement test hoping I’d get placed into VWO. VWO is the education that grants access to uni, which is needed to study vet med. I however, got placed into HAVO. Not bad either. So I went in there, hoping I could climb my way up. My first year went terrible. I was insecure and I faced some issues with bullying, so I dropped to VMBO instead. I completed that, demotivated without any real challenges and afterwards applied to veterinary technician school. At this point I had completely given up on my vet dream and decided to be a tech instead. But as I did this education I realised that this industry is what I’m passionate about and despite loving the vet tech work I knew that I wanted more out of it. After graduation I moved to Denmark and now I’m here, currently studying to get my GED and hopefully being able to still pursue this childhood dream. I knew it wasn’t easy, anything but easy actually, but me being my stubborn self at least wanted to try.

But as I’m getting closer to turning this thing into reality, I realised that I’m getting scared. My exams are getting closer and I start doubting myself as I always do when that dreaded time of the year pops up. I don’t know if I can even get my GED. Will I be able to even get into uni if I do? What if I don’t even make it through the first year of getting my GED?

I’m the kind of person to have back up plan B, C, D, E and F ready just in case plan A doesn’t work out. This time is no different. Although I can’t really use my vet tech degree here in Denmark to get into other educations, I can in the Netherlands. So the past months I’ve been looking at universities of applied sciences and see what they got to offer. I then stumbled upon Biology and Lab Research, which sounded exciting to me albeit not animal related. I have always enjoyed lab work and I’d love to solve things and figure things out. But there’s a catch there. You see, in the Netherlands I’d rack up debt, which isn’t exactly something I’m excited about doing. I would hate to freshly get out of school and be neck deep in. So in a way it almost seems as if I am a little stuck.

I know I first get my GED in 2020 and that I shouldn’t worry, but I do. I’m scared I can’t make it through. Not getting into vet school isn’t the end of the world, but if I don’t get my GED, what then? It’d be my gateway to so many opportunities. What if I can’t even do that?

Let’s just say, that my first goal is to CALM DOWN, pass these exams this semester, and the next 3 semesters as well. Then I’d have my GED.
Second goal: Getting into vet med OR animal science
Third goal: ?? I have no clue!

As I’m getting older I’m realising that making plans that far ahead is pointless. In the end you can’t control how life goes and for me it only seems anxiety inducing. So let’s just keep it at those two goals first. I just hope I can keep myself together long enough to even be able to do that. It’ll just be a buttload of really hard work!

I guess only time will tell!

Do you guys have any future goals and dreams? Do they scare you?

I’d love to hear about them!

– Naiyee

The Motherless Daughters Club: The story of how I lost my mom

Today’s post is going to be a tough one!

Next week, on the 29th of November, marks four years since my mother passed away. Growing up I had heard stories of my peers losing a parent, but I had never really given the idea of losing my mother any thought. ”That would never happen to me!” I’d say.. Until it actually happened.

I was 20 years old, embarking on this whole new journey in my life. I had just graduated vet tech school and I had just moved to Denmark to be with my boyfriend at the time. All in all I was very excited about the start of my new life. That was until I received a phone call from my Opa. He was in tears, I still remember till this day how upset he was. ”Your mother has been admitted to the hospital and it isn’t good. We don’t know what is going on, but it’s bad news”. Those words still haunt me. I was all alone, my then boyfriend was at work and it felt like the ground was disappearing from underneath me. I tried to go about my day, phone in my hand, until Mama called me. She told me they would take some more tests, but they were pretty sure that it was cancer. Cancer. The disease that I’ve seen wreaking havoc all around me. I had seen people die from it. Heck, my mom has undergone surgery for it a few years prior, but the doctors said it wasn’t anything serious.

To hear that it came back felt like a slap in the face. No, actually, it felt like a punch in the stomach. My mind was racing a thousand miles an hour.  The following weeks were a blur. I’d try to Skype with Mama and the rest of my family as much as I could. They ended up finding out that Mama was suffering from a very rare subtype of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma. She’d keep me updated about her progress and how her rounds of chemo were going. Eventually she started losing her hair and we Skyped while my sister shaved off Mama’s hair. It was raw, it was rough and I was struggling to keep my emotions in. Mama actually sent me a lock of her hair, which I today still keep in a little box with some of her jewellery.

The chemo started taking a toll on her health. Mama has always been a bit weaker. She had been suffering from chronic illnesses for years at that point. At this point, three months in, she needed me to be there, so I hesitantly booked my flight to be there with my family. I was scared.

”Is she still the same? She looks so different.. What if I make her sicker?”

I arrived and I could tell she was filled with joy to see me. I wasn’t too happy, but I knew it was the right thing to do. A couple of days leading up to my arrival back home we found out that my childhood dog Lilo also had cancer and wouldn’t be around for much longer. A couple of days later we had to put our beloved Lilo down. It definitely was a blow for all of us. But I tried to spend as much time with my family and friends as possible. I accompanied my mom to her weekly trips to the hospital and all seemed well, until Mama started getting sicker again. She couldn’t keep anything in and the doctors decided that it’d be smart for her to be readmitted so they could run some tests and scans. The day before I was supposed to go back to Denmark I decided to go to the hospital and be with Mama. Her doctor came in and asked if we’d like to come to the family room to discuss her PET scan results and I immediately sensed something wasn’t right. I told Mama, but she seemed confident that it was all fine. I remember saying: ”But… If everything is fine, why wouldn’t she want to tell us here?” Mama shared a room with some other patients and well.. You wouldn’t bring bad news in a room full with other people. Off to the family room we went..

”I’ll just cut right to the chase. Your treatment isn’t working anymore. The cancer is fighting back a couple of times worse than in the beginning.. I’m really sorry, but it’d probably be better if you would go home and spend the time you still have with your family..”

I don’t think I have ever screamed and cried as much in front of my family and strangers as I did that evening. It felt like my world shattered into a million pieces in mere seconds. Watching Mama and Opa break down was the worst thing I have ever had to witness. They were the people who seemed invincible to me. The car ride home to Oma and my sister was long. I recall Mama trying to hold my hands, but I was completely out of it. I couldn’t look at her, it hurt too bad.

”Don’t you want me to hold your hand?”
”Fuck, Mama, what am I supposed to do without you?”

She held me and we cried on the back seat, all the way home. My sister and Oma were devastated too. And then we suddenly had a funeral to plan. The doctors couldn’t say how much longer she had. Could be a couple of weeks, could be a couple of months. The cancer rapidly took over her body up until the point where she was bed bound. Mama had decided she wanted to be put under palliative care instead of choosing euthanasia, since she thought euthanasia would be too hard for my sister and I. I’d have preferred if she opted for euthanasia, but my sister was happier with the palliative care. Only goes to show how this differs for each individual! Seeing Mama’s health deteriorate so badly was hard to watch.

Mama and I had a complicated relationship. We fought a lot as I got older. For the most part I’m a carbon copy of her, maybe not necessarily looks, but definitely personality, just minus the ADD for me. I used to see her as this invincible entity. Mama who could do anything, Mama who would scare anyone away who’d try to hurt me, Mama who would ALWAYS be there, right? Having to take of her, helping her out of bed, making her food, taking her on walks was something that suddenly didn’t seem like a chore anymore, but I actually liked it, knowing that her time here was coming to an end.. That end came sooner than any of us really anticipated.

The day she decided to be put to sleep came and we had to say goodbye, since she would sleep until she would eventually pass away. It was rough. None of us wanted to say goodbye. I still wanted to ask her so many things, go on so many more hikes, have so many more barbecues, sing so many more songs.

”I am so sorry it has gone so fast Nennie.. I really am”

We hugged, we kissed, we laughed for the last time and then she slept. Four days later she finally passed. When my bonus mom came up in my room to tell me she passed, it felt like a relief. Mama wasn’t suffering anymore. The funeral was planned and it was just the way she would have wanted it. We got a bunch of permanent markers, which people could take to write a message on her casket with and the casket transformed from a boring white casket to a casket filled with messages and flowers. It left an impression for sure. It’s funny how one person could have such an impact.  Mama was a dog lover and part of a big community of dog enthusiasts. When she was driven away to be cremated all of her friends were there with their dogs to pay tribute to her and honor her. I look back on it with a smile, knowing she would have loved it.

Having lost her also meant my sister and I lost our childhood home, our dogs and our safe space. Losing her was so much more than losing just her. We lost our old lives and suddenly had to start something new. In the beginning I was convinced I couldn’t do it, but so far, I’d say I’m doing pretty darn well.

I miss her. I miss her so much and it hurts. I wouldn’t even say that it hurts less, because I’m still hurting as much as I did the moment her heart stopped beating. I’ve just learned how to live with it..

In the end, you can’t lose someone who sits so deep within your heart to death. Their memory and stories keep them alive in a way.

– Naiyee

 

Hearts are wild creatures, that’s why our ribs are cages..

So this week I’m up to something pretty big! I’ll be going back to the Netherlands for the first time in over a year to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. It always ends up being pretty awesome whenever I’m down there to visit family, but the time leading up to those trips are always pretty stressful for me.

For those of you that don’t know me that well, my mother passed away only a couple of months after I moved to Denmark in 2014 and basically right after I moved here, I had to go back to be there with her. The weeks leading up to it was grueling, because she was very sick, and I knew that nothing would be the same way as I left it. But then she passed away and suddenly it felt as if my home was taken away from me. Even though I still have all of my family and friends over there, it feels as if I no longer belong. Part of me is probably also just nervous about receiving bad news again, the same way as it did back in 2014. Now I know that that is absolutely irrational and I have nothing to worry about, but still. Going back is hard for me, because it’s a constant reminder of the life I once had. A life I once took for granted. My friends moved away, our dogs have been adopted, my entire family lives in different parts spread out over the country and well.. the house I grew up in is no longer ours.

I remember walking around my hometown last year with my Opa and my sister and even though everything looked the same, the feeling was gone. It was like a familiar painting, but without the warm colours..

Whenever I do go down there to see everyone, it feels like a warm bath. It’s lovely to be surrounded by my family and friends and sometimes I really do wonder if moving abroad was the right decision, but then I look at how much I have grown and the little life I’ve established here and it made me realise that I did something right. But there are moments where I really hate being so far away from everyone I love. It makes me wish that sometimes I wasn’t so adventurous and found contentment in a simpler life, closer to the ones I love. But then I think about a quote my mom once sent me:

”Hearts are wild creatures, that’s why our ribs are cages”.

I see where she was getting at.. I used to ALWAYS follow my head and play it safe, but it also made me very unhappy. The one moment I decided to follow my heart was the decision to move countries, something lots of people in my direct circle never expected of someone like me. But I still try to protect my heart from things that may hurt it, so I keep it tucked deep within me, within my ribs. Isolating myself is a bad coping mechanism I’ve created over the years and I am not very proud of it, but it has always worked. Now that I live so far away from my loved ones it’s even easier, although I try not to. Staying away from the place that confronts me; my own bloody home, is easy, but it’s not a solution. It’s bittersweet really, because this longing for being with my family comes with this fear, this sense of anxiety of returning to my home, because of the events that have occurred there 4 years ago, not even to mention that this month marks the fourth year since my mother has passed.

So in a way, this upcoming trip has given me a lot of sleepless nights too. I procrastinated booking my flight and letting my family know if I’d be there, because of this tug-of-war in my head. However, I knew I couldn’t stay away. This is a milestone in my grandparents’ lives and they had already considered holding it off, since my mother couldn’t be there too. And I can relate to this feeling, because I’ve been there too. I didn’t want to marry or have kids if she wouldn’t be there to experience it, but in the end, life doesn’t stop because her life ended. So I’m proud of my grandparents for deciding that they’d celebrate anyway. I couldn’t say no when they asked me if I’d come too, knowing that they’d already have one empty chair at that table. I didn’t want them to have to look at yet another empty chair at that dining table. And I’m happy that I get to see them again. Spending time with them is fun. They’re amazing people and I am so grateful to still have them.

Life is strange. It’s incredible how much impact the loss of ONE person can have on so many lives. My mother’s death may have caused us to be far apart from one another, but our bond is closer than ever. I only get to spend 4 days in the Netherlands, not very long, but my loss also taught me to cherish those moments, as big or as little as they may seem.

As my favourite Disney character once said:

”This is my family. It’s little and broken, but still good.
Yeah, still good”

To all of you reading this,

Hug your loved ones a little tighter today. You never for how much longer you’ll have them..

– Naiyee