12/23/2014 01:15 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2015

2014 Was a Bad Year... Except When It Wasn't

Meredith Hale

I'm not going to lie: 2014 was not one of my family's better years. My 95-year-old grandmother had heart surgery. The kids and I had more than our share of doctor's visits. The demands of self-employment at times were dizzying.

And yet, all this paled in comparison to watching as cancer quickly, mercilessly, claimed the life of someone we loved. We spent months in helpless silence, not knowing what to say, not wanting to let go, but knowing we couldn't hold on.

It was not a good year.

And yet, from behind the often-suffocating veil of heartbreak, there peeked moments of laughter, wonder and even joy. Somehow, life continues, even in the face of unspeakable loss. Here, amid the lows of 2014, are some high points I don't want to forget.

My son found his words. Somewhere along the way, my toddler started speaking. And suddenly, his inner world began opening up to us, revealing the reasons for his smiles, his cries, his pointing finger. Granted, many of these had to do with cheese. Nonetheless, he went from being an inscrutable little baby to a person with viewpoints and desires we could now (somewhat) understand. No amount of sadness could keep that miraculous transformation from baby to child from touching our hearts.

My daughter started kindergarten. For the first five years of her life -- a blur of diaper changes, first steps, and finger paints -- my daughter was my baby, my constant companion. And then, suddenly, there I was, putting her on that big, yellow bus, watching her pull away from me without so much as a backward glance. As I watched her leave, I desperately wanted to wrap her in my arms, to preserve every moment of her 5-year-old sweetness. And yet, I'm proud to see the curious, kind, thoughtful little girl she's becoming. Even if that bus drives her from my embrace each day.

My kids truly became brother and sister. Since the day he was born, my daughter has loved her little brother, holding him proudly in her arms, bringing him toys, rushing to his crib each morning to be the first person he sees. But now that he's a little older, their relationship has started to blossom. Together they build couch-cushion towers to the sky, invent silly songs, decide what the other will have for breakfast in the morning. It's been a joy to watch them discover each other -- even if that involves fighting over crayons and toy cars. As long as it also involves hugs, I'm happy.

I rediscovered the importance of family. In the midst of a family tragedy, I was reminded of what's most important in life. I watched my husband and his siblings comfort each other without words. I watched distant family gather together, leaving no one alone in their sadness. And I watched as a mother and grandmother's legacy was kept alive through stories, photos, laughter -- and, most of all, in the hearts and memories of a family she nurtured and gave so much of herself to for so many years. It was a beautiful reminder of why each moment of each year matters -- and why it's important to bring the good moments to light, despite feeling lost in the darkness.

When I look back on 2014, it will be hard not to view it as a year of loss. But my family found some positive things, too. I can't help but think I'll also look back on this year as one of building, of creating the foundations for stronger relationships, growing minds, and -- most importantly -- open hearts. And a year that brings that isn't all bad.

This post originally appeared on the blog Mommy A to Z. Follow Mommy A to Z on Facebook and Twitter.