This Mom Knew She Wouldn’t Survive Until Her Children’s Big Life Events So She Planned An Elaborate Surprise

By | family, Food for thought, grief, heartwarming, mothers, parenting, stories, uplifting news

A tear-jerker of a Humans of New York post has gone viral, sharing the story of a dying mother’s last words of wisdom.

She walked gracefully toward death

When doctors checked on Karen, they “found nothing but cancer,” begins a post from the highly popular social media account Humans of New York. “But even then she didn’t give up.”

Karen was dying of cancer, but she maintained her spirits and walked “beautifully toward death.”

“I never once saw her depressed,” explains her daughter, Kailey, who was in high school when her mother died. “There were sad moments, but even those were peaceful. And sometimes she’d laugh so hard it would physically hurt.”

“Every day she told me I was beautiful,” Kailey continued. “She’d said it before, but not like this. It was so intentional.”

Videos for every milestone

Karen regretted not being able to see her children’s biggest milestones, so, she did something extraordinary.

“She recorded videos for the big moments in our lives: graduation, our 21st birthday, our wedding, our first child,” Kailey explains. “Over the years those videos became so precious to me.”

The videos are just a few minutes each and start with what the milestone is and how she regrets not being there. Then, she’ll give personalized advice.

“She’ll say: ‘I know you struggle with X, Y, and Z, so always remember this.’”


One final video

After getting married two years ago, Kailey knew just one video remained. “And it’s always given me comfort– knowing it was there,” Kailey said. “So it was bittersweet when my daughter was born on June 27th.”

After the birth of their first child, Kailey and her husband watched Karen’s final video together, and it was harder to watch than expected.

“She was sicker than the other videos,” Kailed said. “She spoke really slowly. She talked about how I’d always loved babies, even as a child. And she said that she wished she could be there to cuddle my baby.”

Karen talked about Kailey’s childhood, her struggles and her bright spots. Then, “she ended by saying: ‘Love and encourage your babies. They will grow up quickly. So hug them. And pray for them.’ And that was it.”

For the last time, Karen told her daughter that she loved her and said one final goodbye. “For years I’d been dreading that moment,” Kailey says. “But it felt strangely peaceful. Like I was ready. Ready to take up this role.”

Karen passed the torch to Kailey, who now has the responsibility to share love — and wisdom — with her own daughter.

“It’s my turn to have a daughter now. To love her. And to be purposeful with her, just like my mom was purposeful with me.”


Tell your loved ones how much you care

Life doesn’t always work out as we planned. We lose moments and people we wish we could have back. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of every second and tell the people that we love how much we appreciate and cherish them. You never know how many more times you’ll be able to tell them you love them.

More uplifting stories:

In The Midst Of Divorce Allegations, Kim K Surprises The Real People Behind Her Success With $10K Gift

By | family, Food for thought, generosity, heartwarming, Inspiring Celebrities, inspiring celebs, kim kardashian, stories

Keeping Up With The Kardashians has been part the fabric of pop culture for years. Now, as it finally wraps up, Kim Kardashian West and her family are showing that they owe a lot of their success to their crew by gifting them Rolex watches as the show wrapped.

These watches, which go for around $10,000 each,  were gifted to each of the 30 crew members, according to TMZ.

The end of an era

“Officially sobbing. Grateful for every single second,” shared Kardashian in a behind-the-scenes video on Instagram, saying it felt “crazy” that this epic show was ending.

The video continued:

“We just finished filming forever, like ever, ever. We’re done, we’re never filming again – isn’t that so crazy?! So we’re having a drink with the crew in my backyard, hanging out. Cheers to – I don’t know. 15 years; 20 seasons of craziness and lots of love.”

The end of the series was celebrated in a socially distanced way due to the COVID pandemic, at an outdoor garden party for the cast and crew. Of course, the champagne was still flowing.

This milestone comes in the midst of brewing divorce rumors about Kardashian and her husband Kanye West, who have reportedly been living apart for months.

Appreciate those around you

The Kardashian family has faced a lot of criticism over the years, but they have a reputation for being generous and professional, even during times of personal hardship and public scrutiny.

The family understands that success and fame are fleeting. Their longevity is due to the support of hundreds of cast, crew and supporting team members, and the family always makes sure those people feel appreciated.

After being with E! for 20 seasons, the Kardashians are moving over to Hulu  – so who knows what to expect next.

More inspiring celebrities:

Mom Fights To Adopt Abused Special Needs Teen Who Lived With 28 Other Orphans

By | adoption, family, Food for thought, heartwarming, parenting, relationships, stories, uplifting news

Most aspiring adoptive parents dream of bringing a bright-eyed baby home, someone they can nurture from infancy.

Unfortunately, older kids like Sony, a teenager from India – who also had physical and emotional scars – get overlooked. One family dared to look past that and met an incredible girl. Their story reminds us of the gift of ignoring appearances.

Indian families usually only want to adopt newborn children who are completely ‘perfect’ according to them

CARA CE0 Deepak Kumar

A difficult upbringing

Life was rough in India for 14-year-old Sony. Abandoned by her family, born with a birth defect and having suffered through years of physical abuse, she had facial differences and brain damage.

At school, teachers would force her to cover her face, saying that it scared the other children. “It made me feel sad”, she told KHOU.

Her older age made finding a family difficult. Couples dream of taking home a bright-eyed baby who they can nurture. Older kids are seen as undesirable, having too much “baggage.”

According to India’s Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), the majority of “returned” adoptive kids are older (6 years +).

Isolated and packed in a home with 28 other foster children, Sony seemed to have nothing to look forward to as her 15th birthday neared.

Hope across the globe

While Sony was praying for a family, thousands of miles away, Shannon Regan and fiancé Jay Marsh of Anne Arundel County, Maryland were growing theirs.

They had recently adopted 11-year-old Chelsea from China. During Chelsea’s adoption process, Shannon came across Sony and wanted to adopt her too.

Working closely with Reece’s Rainbow, a group that provides support for families adopting children with special needs, they fought to bring her over.

Race against a pandemic

The couple was fully prepared for the red tape and delays. What they couldn’t anticipate was a global pandemic. With the coronavirus spreading, Shannon needed to hurry to India to complete the process.

There has been a lot of trust on her part that there is a world out there here, we just need to get out there safely

Shannon Regan to ABC

Thankfully, she made it in time. They brought Sony over before the COVID-19 lockdowns started, just days before her 15th birthday on June 3rd. Shannon counts her blessings.

“If I hadn’t gone over there and got the final approval to bring her home, she definitely would still not be home”, she told ABC.

The gift of a home

Shannon truly realized her fortune when Sony returned to Maryland. In fact, she says both of her adoptive daughters have completely enriched her life and changed her for the better.

Having parents has helped me know that I’m important, loved, I have a new life. I can be my best and I am safe.

Sony Regan to ABC

No longer having to cover up, Sony is happy to finally be part of a family. She is now on a mission to help other children receive the gift of adoption. In a two-page letter she wrote encouraging adoption, Sony explains why a child is never too old.

“I know people are scared to adopt older children because they think that child might hurt the parents or family or child or won’t love them and won’t fit in. Actually, I know the adopted child can make your family life better. Adopted children do love their family even when it feels hard at first.”

I think adoption is love. I prayed for a family for a long time.

Sony Regan

Perfectly imperfect

Many saw in Sony someone too disfigured to look at, too old to change, too hurt to love.

The Regans instead saw a beautiful girl with a big heart who only needed a chance. Finally given an opportunity, she can show the world the amazing person she is.

Shannon Regan encourages parents to pursue adoption with both their “head and heart.” Wouldn’t it be nice if we brought that approach to all of our pursuits?

More uplifting news:

How To Tell If Someone Has A Truly Toxic Personality, According To Science

By | dating, family, Food for thought, friends, Motivation, narcissism, personality, relationships, self, self-development, Self-Improvement, stories, toxic people, toxic relationships, uplifting news

Your friend or someone you know has gotten fired from every job they’ve ever had. Their dates always flake on them and their friends always betray them. The common theme: it’s never their fault and if you press them on it you’re the one to blame.

According to a team of psychologists in Israel, these types of people may have a toxic personality disorder called “tendency for interpersonal victimhood” (TIV), which they describe as “an ongoing feeling that the self is a victim, which is generalized across many kinds of relationships.”

People with TIV wholly and truly believe they are never wrong and that their victimhood is a core part of their identity.

How to tell if someone ‘plays the victim?’

Not everyone who feels victimized is toxic. Bad things do happen and it’s okay to be upset about it.

Rather, TIV occurs when someone constantly feels like a victim and they bring others down with them.

Rahav Gabay and her colleagues determined that people with TIV tend to have four dimensions:

Constantly seeking recognition

Of all the allegedly horrible things that happen to someone with TIV, people never apologize to them. Worse, they don’t even acknowledge their wrongdoing.

While apologies can be hard to come by, this only becomes an issue when the person who plays the victim is in desperate search of recognition for the supposed bad things that are done to them.

A sense of moral elitism

People with TIV are never wrong. In fact, their moral compass is better than everyone else’s and they use this assumption to manipulate others into their own perspective.

This behavior may be a defense mechanism as a way to maintain a positive self-image.

Lack of empathy for others

Everything that happens to TIV people is the absolute worst and no one else’s pain or suffering matters, or so they think. This can especially be toxic in a relationship as TIV people only care about their own problems, never others’.

The route of this behavior can be that since the person believes they have suffered so much, they don’t think anyone else deserves empathy for their suffering.

This lack of empathy can also show up in a group or national level in the form of “competitive victimhood” or an “egoism of victimhood” where members of a group cannot see things from another group’s perspective.

Rumination about past victimization

Since romantic relationships never worked out in the past for TIV people, there’s no chance they’ll work in the future. This is a fallacy as the past doesn’t dictate the future, but it’s a core belief of people who always play the victim.

Always ruminating about past grievances and thinking it reflects the future is something perpetual victims tend to do.

Why TIV is toxic

People who always play the victim are extremely difficult to deal with because they’re selfish and never wrong.

They’re also obsessed with seeking revenge for those who’ve wronged them and may punish others who had nothing to do with it just because they’ve been wronged before.

Forgiving is part of growth

We all play the victim from time to time. Sometimes bad things really do happen to us and it makes us sour.

The problem is when the victimhood because constant and when the person never learns from their mistakes. It’s also problematic when they never forgive others – you don’t know what everyone is going through and nobody’s perfect.

Ultimately, the problem with playing the victim is it doesn’t allow you to learn or grow from the past. If you don’t acknowledge your faults, how can you make adjustments for the future?

If you know someone who’s always playing a victim, it might be time to reduce your relationship with them or have a frank discussion about it. Life is too short to be surrounded by toxic people.

More uplifting stories:

Denzel Washington’s Broken Childhood Taught Him Not To Make The Same Mistakes Again

By | family, Food for thought, Inspiring Celebrities, parenting, stories

He’s one of the biggest movie stars the world has known, yet he stops, jokes and takes pictures with fans. He’s Denzel Washington, 65, beloved by all as humble, a man of substance who doesn’t sell out and is committed to quality, morality, and, in short, doing both his life and his acting career right.

But how did he start out? What many people don’t know is that Denzel had some early struggles, though he tends to keep his personal life largely out of the limelight. The reality is, if it wasn’t for his hard-ass mother looking out for his best interests (something he continually acknowledges to this day), he might not have become the Denzel Washington we know and love today.

Washington has been married to his wife Pauletta since 1983, and they have four children. But although he has painstakingly created a life for himself that puts family and good parenting before all else, his own upbringing was far from idyllic, particularly when it came to his dynamic with his father, which many would call troubled.

His parents’ divorce shaped him

Who among us is not deeply and forever impacted by our relationships with our parents? One way or another, we are all affected, whether we choose to focus on it or not.

Washington’s father, Denzel Hayes Washington Sr., was a pentecostal preacher who ran two churches, worked another job on top of that, and was rarely around. His mother owned a beauty parlour.

“My parents were like night and day,” he has observed. “She’s urban, raised in Harlem. My father was just this spirit-filled man until the day he died, a country boy raised on a farm in Virginia.”

They say opposites attract, but my parents only grew apart. I was 14 when they divorced.

Around the time his parents split, his mother sent him away to private school in upstate NY to keep him out of trouble. “That decision changed my life, because I wouldn’t have survived in the direction I was going,” said Washington. In an interview on Popcorn with Peter Travers, when asked if he was a good kid, he laughs and says,  “I was mischievous,” more solemnly adding, “My three closest friends did quite a bit of time [in jail] … decades.”

Watch this Goalcast video on Denzel’s inspirational life:

A lost connection

At the age of 18, Denzel moved out of his mother’s place and into his father’s. “And he kicked me out,” Washington told GQ. “He said, ‘You’re just bad.’” But in spite of the long and sordid history between Denzel and his dad, he acknowledges his father’s goodness.

“Everyone I grew up with didn’t have a father. I had a father. My father was a decent man. He was a very spiritual man and a gentleman.”

Yet, perhaps most tellingly, he goes on to describe how, when his father died in 1991, he didn’t cry:

He died in August. We started shooting around the time that he died. [pauses] I never shed a tear for my father. That sounds like a book or a song. I never did all through the funeral and all that. There was no connection.

Denzel Washington in GQ

When asked, “What do you see of your father in you?” Denzel responds, “I’m more like my mother. She is the toughest woman.”

Why he is his mother’s son

Denzel’s mother, Lennis Washington, was the single greatest influence in his life, and to this day he remains thankful for her strength. Lennis was a single mother after her divorce, but while her ex-husband mostly stayed away, she brought up her son with discipline and hard work. Wanting the very best for him, she saved money for private school “even when she could not afford it.” 

While some of his friends were going down a very negative path, Denzel’s mother “had enough sense to get me out of that situation before it was going to be my turn,” says Washington. “I had that Pentecostal foundation and a mother who used to say, ‘Son, you never know who’s praying for you.’ So maybe it wasn’t my fate to fall into those traps,” he told Parade back in 1999.

“I was what they call ‘throwing rocks at the penitentiary,’” Denzel told ABC years later, “but I never hit it. I never got caught … I also knew right from wrong, so I never wanted to go too far. I’d dip my toe in the water.”

So in 9th grade, his mother put Denzel in Oakland Academy, a private prep school in New Windsor, N.Y. where he excelled at sports and became interested in the arts. After graduating, he began at Fordham University where he started acting in his junior year.

As for his friends, “One did 28 years [behind bars], one did 20 and the other did 12,” he says, adding, “One is dead … the other two are out.” When asked what advice he’d give his 15-year-old self, he laughs loudly and exclaims, “Listen to your mother!” 

His own approach to fatherhood

While Denzel’s relationship with his dad was far from perfect, he has gleaned lessons from both of his parents which have ultimately influenced him as a parent.

“It wasn’t like it’s been for our children,” he says, “where you take them to all their events. It was a different time. Once they were separated, I was in school. So 70 percent of the year, I was away. In the summer, I wasn’t looking to track him [my father] down. I was ready to hit the streets. So you just kind of fade…. Not to say that I didn’t love him like a dad. But we didn’t play ball, those types of things. Next thing you know, you’re at college.”

As for his own approach to fatherhood, “Life is family,” he says.

You know, rushing to get home because my son’s got a football game, and I’m going to be there. We drive to the game and watch him and discuss it afterward. That’s life. Acting is not life to me. It’s making a living.

Denzel Washington

Although he loves making movies, Washington says he doesn’t watch or analyze his films. “Once you make a movie, it belongs to the people,” he says. “So, I don’t look back. I might see a scene if it’s on TV or something.”

Unsurprisingly, he has tried to instil the same brand of humility in those of his children who chose to act, John David and Olivia Washington, who both saw success early on in popular TV shows.

And as far as black fatherhood goes, Denzel tells GQ, “One of the things that saddens me the most about my people is fathers that don’t take care of their sons and daughters. And you can’t blame that on The Man or getting frisked. Take responsibility.

“Look in the mirror and say, ‘What can I do better?’ There is opportunity; you can make it…I’m not telling you what religion to be, but work on your spirit…Imagine—work the brain muscle.

Keep the body in tune—it’s your temple. All things in moderation. Continue to search. That’s the best part of life for me—continue to try to be the best man.

More inspiring celebrities:

This One Lesson From Kevin Hart’s Late Mother Drove Him to Excel

By | career growth, comedians, family, Food for thought, Inspiring Celebrities, Kevin Hart, motivating, profile, relationships, success

Born in 1979 in Philadelphia, Kevin Hart is a successful stand-up comedian and actor who has consistently made us laugh over the last decade. He has built an amazing career out of his talent for captivating storytelling.

The entertainer is highly ambitious and a man of discipline. These were probably the main ingredients to Kevin’s recipe for success, which helped him go from almost nothing to more than he has ever dreamed of.

He started small but his dreams were big

While Hart’s life is now made of hit movies and seriously funny stand-up comedy shows, it hasn’t always been like this. But no matter where he was in his journey, he’s consistently had the support of the most important person in his life: his mother. She greatly contributed to making his trajectory a little smoother.

The reason I am the way I am is because my mom was strong. It may have affected my mom, but my mom was such a strong woman.


His first job was sizing men and women for footwear, but he had bigger plans for his future. He needed a job to help ends meet but he quit as soon as he realized that he could become a performer.

A single mom’s efforts

Hart and his older brother were raised by single mom Nancy. With a spouse lost in a life of drug addiction, Nancy had to remain strong for her boys. She worked as a Systems Analyst and did everything she could so that her two sons would receive proper education and stay off the streets. She was a religious, loving woman, yet, as Hart often portrays her in his shows, also intimidating.

In an interview with Oprah, Kevin recalled the moment when he took the biggest decision of his life and the way his mother reacted to it. He knew what he wanted to do, but he couldn’t do it without any help.

His mother supported him despite her religious values

Nancy didn’t really agree to her son’s aspirations. She hated all the cursing during his performances but she was supportive nonetheless. As he mentioned during an interview with Oprah, his mother told him:

You know what, Kevin? I’m not a dream killer. You tell me this is what you wanna do, I’m gonna let you do it. You got one year to prove to me that this is what you wanna do and that you can support yourself.

At first, Kevin didn’t do a great job in supporting himself. Regardless, he loved what he was doing and didn’t want to stop. He was building relationships that would later help him become famous. But at the time, meeting new people didn’t help to pay his rent.

This story of his beginnings and his mother’s help is one he has told many times. As he was about to get evicted, he sought his mother to ask for money. She insisted on telling him to read the Bible first before coming back to talk about his rent.

How was that going to help in such a situation? Well, once Kevin decided to open his Bible and read it just to please his mom, six cheques covering his rent fell out of it.

He was missing a little faith, but learned his lesson.

Kevin’s got many hilarious anecdotes involving his mother. If you’re a fan of his work, you’re probably familiar with what happened to him the first time he cursed in front of her.

Sadly, Kevin’s mother would not live to experience his breakthrough success, as she died of cancer in 2007. Hart only knew his mother was gravely ill a few weeks before her death.

He was devastated because he lost the person who believed in him and taught him to be the tireless and determined man that he is today.

As a religious person, Nancy Hart wasn’t the biggest fan of her son’s work and she didn’t talk too much about his career. She was, however, as supportive as it gets and proud of his success.

When he was cleaning out her house, Hart found a box filled with newspaper and magazine clippings of his interviews.

Anything I’d ever done, she had it […] She never missed anything.

The values she instilled in her two sons also remained. Kevin and his brother forgave their father for being absent during their upbringing and eventually helped him get through rehabilitation.

Regardless of my upbringing and the way I was raised and how often he was in my life, he’s my dad. I have a positive outlook on life regardless, and I’m going to love him because he’s my father.

The eternal appreciation of a son

Ever since releasing his first stand-up album I’m a Grown Little Man in 2009, he has gone on to achieving big Hollywood success, appearing in films like: Think Like a Man (2012), About Last Night (2014), Get Hard (2015), Central Intelligence (2016), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) and The Upside (2019).

He’s also a fitness enthusiast with a strict schedule. He gets up every morning at 5:30, hits the gym, and then takes care of business. From entertainment to fashion, to wellness and financial education, Kevin Hart is now a business tycoon and one of the biggest stars on the planet.

His mother’s lessons live on

Hart mentions his mother almost every time he talks about his accomplishments. He knows that he wouldn’t have become the person he is today if it weren’t for the effort she put in raising him. Nancy encouraged him to always have a positive outlook on life and never give up on his dreams.

The values imparted by a mother, or by any role model, often help us in figuring out what kind of life we want to lead. Being grateful for the lessons and aligning our actions to these values, much like Kevin did, enable us to unlock our potential.

More inspiring stories:

Why Eddie Murphy’s Movie is Dedicated to His Brother Charlie

By | charlie murphy, comedian, Eddie Murphy, family, Food for thought, heart-warming, heartwarming, Inspiring Celebrities, profile, relationships

We all know Eddie Murphy— when we see the name, many iconic characters spring to mind, along with hilarious one-liners and physical comedy. You may know him for stint on Saturday Night Live, his string of hit comedy films in the ’80s and ’90s, his Golden Globe-winning turn in Dreamgirls, or even his groundbreaking standup career.

But what about Charlie Murphy? 

Eddie Murphy’s older brother Charlie was a standup comedian, actor, and screenwriter in his own right, best known for his performances in Dave Chappelle’s iconic sketch TV series Chappelle’s Show

Experts within the comedy industry laud Charlie as one of the most under appreciated talents in the scene, with director Craig Brewer saying, “”He may not have been as famous as Eddie, but he was a really talented and funny cat.”

If you don’t know Charlie Murphy’s name, then you likely have no idea that he died in 2017 after a battle with leukaemia. Or that Eddie Murphy’s comeback film My Name is Dolemite is dedicated to his memory.

What else don’t you know about the Murphy brothers?

Their tragic childhood

The Murphy brothers’ childhood ended sooner than most, with their parents’ divorce when Eddie was just three years old, followed by his father’s murder five years later.

Neither Charlie nor Eddie had it easy growing up, but older brother Charlie stepped up to serve as his little brother’s protector whenever he could. Eddie was understandably traumatized by the loss of his father, but Charlie did his best to be Eddie’s rock.

When their mother became so ill that she had to be hospitalized for months, Charlie and Eddie were put into foster care. Thankfully, the brothers were not separated, but they spent a year in the system before being returned to their mother’s care. 

Despite their tough childhood, Eddie credits the hard times with developing his razor sharp wit and wicked sense of humor. While Eddie turned to the standup comedy scene to channel his pain, Charlie was drawn into gang violence. Eddie was without his brother for the first time when Charlie was sentenced to 10 months in prison. Charlie credits his mother with helping him clean up his act, as she encouraged him to join the military.

As Eddie’s star rose, Charlie was stuck in the shadows

As Eddie rose to the top of the comedy scene, Charlie reclaimed his role as his brother’s protector by serving as Eddie’s head of security.

While he loved being able to support his brother, Charlie’s own creativity was being stifled in the role. He recalled, “I was there for the person I loved and the people around him didn’t like it. Being there to support someone else is cool if you’re a troop but I’m a general. I like being out in front. I left shortly after that happened and wrote my first film script.”

Eddie was also moving away from standup and into the world of Hollywood, but Charlie found his place as a sketch performer with Dave Chappelle. He turned his role as an observer behind the scenes into the Chappelle’s Show‘s now iconic “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” segment.

The stories he wrote and shared about Prince and Rick James are still referenced daily— often by people who have no idea who they originated from!

Charlie stepped into a spotlight of his own making

With the abrupt end of Chappelle’s Show, Charlie took advantage of the challenge of making ends meet– turning it into an opportunity to test himself on the biggest dream he’d always been afraid to chase: he set out to be a standup comedian.

Though Eddie hadn’t performed standup in two decades by that point, his shadow still loomed large over Charlie. “When I first started doing comedy, I was 42 years old and I was the brother of one of the most celebrated comics in history who made his name in the game 20 years earlier. So, that took a lot of bravery,” he said.

Once he set his mind to it, Charlie slowly but surely made his way up through the world of standup, earning the respect of iconic comedians such as Chris Rock and DL Hughley. Of course, his greatest admirer was his little brother.

“Eddie sometimes comes to my shows. He’s proud of me. He talks about doing stand-up himself again but he’s hesitant after all this time. He doesn’t want to be compared to me,” Charlie told Metro.

Charlie’s legacy for Eddie– and for us

In 2017, Eddie’s protector finally faced the one battle he couldn’t win: cancer. He left behind a long career of writing, standup, and acting, along with two daughters.

Eddie mourned his brother in private: “Charlie filled our family with love and laughter and there won’t be a day that goes by that his presence will not be missed.”

He also found a way to honor is brother creatively. He produced and starred in My Name is Dolemite– a movie about the comedian Charlie had introduced him to– and dedicated the movie to Charlie’s memory.

Even more significantly, Eddie resolved not just to return to live sketch comedy by guest hosting Saturday Night Live, but also decided to make a return to standup up, three decades after his last iconic run– and three years after Charlie’s death.

Both brothers stories are powerful lessons about tackling the dream you’re most afraid of pursuing, not to mention never letting egos get in the way of family or your passion.

Charlie protected his brother until he realized it was time to stop playing defense. Then he was able to live his dream.

I’ve never felt like I was living in anyone’s shadow. My life was what it was. I was always proud of my brother. He helped me tremendously, but we’re family so we were never in his shadow.

Charlie Murphy in Essence (2009)

Joaquin Phoenix Forged His Own Legacy in the Shadow of River’s Death

By | actor, empowering, family, Food for thought, heartbreak, joaquin phoenix, profile, relationships, river phoenix

It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since we lost River Phoenix at the prime of his life, and his career. But no one feels that loss more than his brother, Joaquin.

Part of the reason that River’s death is so fresh for so many of us is the suddenness of it all. On October 30, 1993, as he left a nightclub in LA with a few friends – including brother his 19-year-old brother Joaquin – the actor died at the young age of 23.

River was America’s sweetheart

River’s star was only set to rise even higher when he lost his life to an overdose. He had been nominated an Oscar for his role in Running on Empty and was set to star in Interview with the Vampire and The Basketball Diaries — roles that would go to Christian Slater and Leonardo DiCaprio in his absence.

Fans and Hollywood heavy-hitters alike grieved for him. But as hard as the loss of River hit the public, it was nothing compared to the impact on his family.

“As River grew, he did become more and more uncomfortable being the poster boy for all good things. He often said he wished he could just be anonymous. But he never was. When he wasn’t a movie star, he was a missionary. There’s a beauty in that – the man with the cause, the leader – but there’s also a deep loneliness,” his mother Arlyn told Esquire magazine.

It was a life that started as pure as it can get.

River’s parents worked as missionaries, supporting themselves by fruit picking and other odd jobs.

At the time of his death, River was only in his early twenties, but had already been in dozens of films, including coming-of-age classic Stand By Me and was something of a teen idol in addition to being an active animal activist and musician.

Part of the reason that his death from an overdose was so shocking was because Phoenix was never seen as a “bad boy” before his death– in fact his image had been rather clean.

He was known as a hard worker and an ardent believer in all sorts of social, political, humanitarian interests. He was even a vegan, purporting the importance of putting nothing bad or toxic in one’s body.

River’s close bond with his family

“My parents really were very dedicated to us, and in some ways they gave up many of the things they had had in their 20s to help us find what it was we dreamed of. It was an incredibly selfless act,” their older sister Rain said in an interview with The Guardian.

There was never any competitiveness between us.

“We realized there was a shared aspect of success – that at different times each individual was poised to shine, and supporting that was the most important thing. That is really how we felt; it isn’t just a statement, it was how we behaved,” Rain explained.

How Joaquin forged his own path

Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line

Following his brother’s death, Joaquin stepped away from his budding acting career for a year, processing his grief with his family away from the public eye as much as he could.

Upon his return to the acting world, the roles he took were often darker and more emotionally challenging than the work River did early on in his career.

Playing a villain in Gladiator earned Joaquin his first Oscar nomination, and his second came when he portrayed Johnny Cash — a brilliant performer who struggled with addiction — in the biopic Walk the Line.

He and River are the only brothers to be nominated for acting Oscars

In 2005, Joaquin sought treatment for his own addiction– something River never got the chance to do– and has come out the other side. He even starred in a film about addiction recovery, from River’s collaborator Gus van Sant.

A third nomination Oscar would come for The Master, where Joaquin played a cult follower with PTSD.

River’s legacy for Joaquin

River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho

Despite his long and varied career, Joaquin says he owes all his success and fame to his beloved, late, brother.

“When I was 15 or 16 my brother River came home from work and he had a VHS copy of a movie called Raging Bull and he sat me down and made me watch it. And the next day he woke me up, and he made me watch it again. And he said, ‘You’re going to start acting again, this is what you’re going to do,’” Joaquin said at the TIFF Tribute Gala this year.

He didn’t ask me, he told me.

“I am indebted to him for that because acting has given me such an incredible life,” he said in a recent speech. “I feel overwhelmed with emotion, because I’m just thinking about all the people that had such a profound influence on me,” Joaquin said. “When I was watching those clips, I thought about my family.”

Joaquin has honored his brother’s legacy in other ways: he remains an outspoken environmental and animal rights activist.

Turning darkness into light

Now Joaquin is starring in the film Joker, which is getting a lot of attention for its serious, controversial story, but the dark emotions of the character are what really drew him to the role.

“When I read through the script, I noticed the traits of PTSD,” Joaquin told GamesRadar+ and Total Film. “The one part of the story I believed was that he experiences childhood trauma. He’s in this highly reactive state in which he sees and looks for threat everywhere. That was really kind of like a foundational piece for me.”

After losing River at such a young age, Joaquin could clearly relate to the childhood trauma the Joker goes through in the movie,

He saw a way to forge his own path as an actor, respecting his brother’s legacy but not letting it overshadow him, and confronting his grief in a productive way rather than giving up.

Joaquin’s own legacy will be one of fearless creativity, and he is building it, one decision at a time.

More powerful stories about surviving grief:

After 24 Years of Struggle, This Homeless Man Was Reunited With His Lost Daughters

By | family, Food for thought, heartwarming, Inspiring Stories, news, stories, uplifting news

Sometimes, when it seems everything in life is stacked against us and we are, ultimately, all alone, we can feel hopeless. This is especially true when we do not have family by our side.

A perfect example is this story of a Florida-based homeless man who had not seen his daughters in more than twenty years. But he just had an emotional reunion that involved crossing the country and finding each other again, all because a kind-hearted police officer took the time to help him.

A family separated

Jose Lopez first lost touch with his then-teenage daughters when he separated from his wife and moved to Florida to be with his mother, CBS New York reports.

Lopez described the years without his daughters as “empty… That’s no way for anybody to feel.”

Years later he was able to track his daughters down and reconnected with them over the phone. They maintained contact for a couple years until, after a series of strokes and health setbacks, Lopez wound up homeless and had lost his memory of his daughters’ phone number.

When he was recovered enough to travel, Lopez set off for New Jersey, determined to reunite with his daughters.

He tearfully explained the motivation behind his long journey: “I had to, I wanted to, I needed to.”

From Florida to Jersey

Lopez set off with a little money he had saved up, but ran into trouble when he arrived in New Jersey — he didn’t know how to reach his daughters.

His fortune was reversed by the good will of NJ-based Crisis Outreach Officer Sean Pfeifer. “Mr. Lopez was intent on finding his family, and I wanted to make sure that I was there to help him with doing that,” Pfeifer said.

Pfeifer called everyone who could possibly be a family member until he found Lopez’s daughters. He then treated Lopez to a shave and haircut before the big reunion. 

The big reunion

Kristy and Angela Viviani couldn’t believe their ears when they got the call from Pfeifer, even thinking it had to be a scam. When Pfeifer explained that he’d come upon their father, lost but in search of them, they were overjoyed.

When Kristy and Angela finally reunited with their dad, they had their children in tow. Jose was able to meet his grandchildren for the first time and tears were shed all around as they embraced their grandpa for the very first time.

Some things never fade

“I remembered the eyes,” Kristy Vivani said of the moment they were reunited, while her dad exclaimed “My baby! My Kristy! My ballerina!”

The reunion also meant everything to Pfeifer. “To feel their emotion, behind the camera I was tearing up,” he said.

“I’m thinking I’m in heaven,” Lopez said. “I’ve got my two best girls. I got a good friend.”

The story of Jose Lopez, his daughters, and granddaughters is a powerful reminder of the undying power of familial love — and of the attention and care that every person deserves. Without Pfeifer’s aid, Jose may never have found his daughters again.

More powerful reunion stories:

My Dad’s Abuse Haunted My Relationships — Until I Learned How to Banish It

By | dating, empowering, family, Food for thought, how-to guide, personal essay, Relationship, relationships

Fact: not everyone has an overall happy upbringing or nurturing, relatively sane parents. I was lucky enough to score one out of two: my mom’s pretty cool. My father on the other hand…

The emotional mind games were unparalleled, the verbal abuse was unrelenting, and it occasionally got physical too. My father’s default setting was one of deep anger and bitterness at how the world had wronged him, and as he saw it, his wife and children continued to perpetrate the overarching injustice at his expense.

Although it’s impossible to boil down a father-daughter relationship to a few brief words, I’ll try.

I was the eldest of three — and the most confrontational by far

I often saw my father as injustice personified, and as I pitted myself against him I knew that it was either him or me. In other words, I knew that if I ever did myself harm, I would be letting him win, and so I somehow always managed to externalize my feelings and direct them at him rather than at myself. Self-preservation.

For a long time I was proud of the fact that I had consistently stood up to my father, that I had refused to be bullied—that I was ultimately very strong, and that I had survived my childhood intact.

But although I had great friends, a pretty functional life, and was more or less a well-adjusted person, my romantic relationships with men were undeniably the dwelling place of my past suffering.

How my dad haunted my romantic relationships:

Lack of trust

Lack of trust and support when you’re young can rear its ugly consequences decades later in your relationships.

This often manifests as jealousy if your guy pays any attention to another woman. In my case I even harbored a fear of introducing my girlfriends to some of my partners.

It can also develop as a general lack of trust that the man you’re with is a reliable person— that he has your best interests at heart, that he’ll show up when you need him, that he isn’t out to compete against you or overpower you in some way.

My father never supported us emotionally, financially, or in any other way, and he cheated on my mother.

Overly defensive

I still personally have to work long and hard not to feel disproportionately defensive over the tiniest thing on a regular basis.

Why? Because as a child I was literally — and regularly — attacked. Later, as an adult woman in relationships with men who were nothing like my father (for the most part), I would nonetheless feel attacked over the smallest thing: a tone of voice, a weighted pause.

Does he doubt my credibility? Does he question my capability? Does he look down on my point of view?

My inability to feel even a little misunderstood without losing my damn mind comes from constantly having my account of reality dismissed and ridiculed by my father. But acknowledging that is half the battle!

Fear of abandonment

My father didn’t just fail to earn my trust and attack me. Years later when I reached out to him to try to have a relationship, he chose to refuse contact, and it felt like a horrible abandonment.

In spite of all the negative qualities he possessed, I still wanted to gain his approval. A part of me will always love the guy. When he refused to be a part of my adult life, it was both upsetting and destabilizing.

The fact that I have had to contend with a nonsensical (though palpable) fear of abandonment in my relationships is not surprising.

How I banished it:

Photo Credit: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

If any of this feels familiar to you, don’t worry. There are no problems without solutions.

Here are a few helpful strategies I learned to integrate into my own life to help overcome my daddy issues and become capable of a healthier, more satisfying, and more adult romantic relationship.

Reflect on the qualities you’re attracted to

Do you tend to choose men who share qualities with your father?

This does not have to be a negative thing. My father wasn’t all bad, and no one is. But it’s important to be aware of who you’re attracted to and why. Self-reflect and determine whether the men you’re attracted to are good for you or not.

For me, the number one most important quality in a man at this point is the ability to communicate: openly, honestly, and with compassion.

Check your narrative(s)

Is the voice in your head always negative when it comes to relationships? When you start a new relationship, do you tell yourself it’s bound to fail—as a way of protecting yourself, even when you really it hope it succeeds?

The power of thought should never be underestimated.

Catch yourself in the act. Even if it feels fake at first, turn it around and instead say to yourself “There is no reason why this won’t go really well.” You’d be surprised what a difference it can make.

Look into therapy

Therapy is not for everyone, but at the right time in your life, with the right therapist, you can make serious waves in the ocean that is your messy mind.

I’ve only seen a therapist a handful of times in my life, but I do have a good go-to. She once said to me:

You don’t need to swim for your life when you’re standing in ankle-deep water.

It was all I needed to hear in that moment to break down and cry, have a laugh, and build myself back up again.

Bottom line: love yourself against all odds, and beautiful things are bound to grow. The work never ends for any of us, but self-awareness is the key to a more satisfying life.