You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.

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The past week has been very surreal. My friends Lesley Buxton and Mark Taylor lost their beautiful daughter, India Olivia, to a horrible degenerative disease. Miss India, only 16 years young, died somewhere between October 10th and October 11th at Rogers House, her parents lying by her sides.

India was born healthy and lived a normal life until she hit adolescence and started to get sick. Lesley and Mark had been caring for India for the past few years and they had launched a website to help raise awareness of her disease and money for research. Although there was hope that the researchers working on her cells would find a cure in time to save her, Lesley and Mark knew that India might not be able to hang on that long. Based on how quickly the disease was moving, they knew India didn’t have much time but I don’t think any of us were prepared for her to leave us so soon. (You can read  more about India on Lesley’s blog: Fall on me, dear).

When I read that India had passed, last week, and told my husband and my girls, we were overwhelmed with sadness and we cried. We cried at the thought of India’s life cut short so needlessly: a beautiful, clever, happy girl who had so many dreams and hopes and with so much goodness to give to the world. We cried for Lesley and Mark: good, kind, big-hearted people who lived for their daughter and loved her unconditionally, now left heart-broken and empty. We cried at the senselessness of it all. How could this have happened to such good, solid people?

I can’t imagine the pain and suffering that Lesley and Mark are going through. I feel a little ashamed to even be writing about how this terrible loss has affected me, someone who has not lost a child, but Mark and Lesley’s loss has had an impact on me. More than that, India’s sickness has had an effect on me.

Apart from breaking down and crying all week long and thinking about Lesley and Mark and how they are dealing with their loss, I have also been trying to make sense of this tragedy. It would be wonderful if I could just say “It’s God’s plan” but I don’t believe in God. That doesn’t mean that I don’t respect other peoples’ belief systems but believing in one entity who oversees us all and welcomes us into heaven is really not for me.

I’ve wrestled with this for years and in the end, I simply have come to accept the fact that we are all made up of energy and when we die, our energy moves on to another body. Much like the buddhists, I believe in reincarnation. We go on. This gives me some comfort: that the lessons we have learned along the way and the people we have encountered in our time might travel with us in some small capacity to another time. And we might encounter these same spirits again and again. As it turns out, the same day that India died, we watched the movie Cloud Atlas. Interestingly, these beliefs that I have always wondered about were echoed and explored in that movie — and that has helped me to better accept the short life of lovely, little India.

I think the biggest lesson I have taken away from India’s life and her death is that we all need to be more giving, more charitable and more forgiving. We humans are more connected than we realize and we aren’t grateful enough for what we have. We live in a society that prompts us to want more material stuff and we really need to step back and assess what we have and what we need and if what we have truly makes us happy. I know that the best thing in my life is Scott and our girls. At the end of the day, they are the only things I really need to be happy. I have tried to tune into my family more these days, focusing on our time together, our adventures, our experiences. It doesn’t matter where we are, only that we are together. My time with them is everything. What a luxury time is. As I get older, this is what’s most important to me… a precious lesson learned.

India Olivia Buxton Taylor (1997 – 2013) You may be gone, but we will never forget you. Thank you for making the world a sweeter place because you were in it.

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