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I visited my grandmother’s cabin in Red Wing, Minnesota this past summer. It’s a beautiful place—off the beaten path on a quiet road. The back of the house overlooks the Mississippi river. You can walk down the stairs or take an old rickety elevator down to the beach.

It’s always interesting for me to visit a place where I have so many memories. My great-grandmother used to live in this house, and my family has been coming here since before I was born. Just being in the physical proximity of the place, I remembered things that I hadn’t thought about in years.

One night I walked down the stairs to the beach to watch the sunset. It was peaceful and beautiful—the waves slowly lapped against the shore and the sky was a deep red-orange. As I was sitting there, a vivid memory came up for me, of being at the cottage one summer and sneaking out at night to the beach with my girlfriend at the time.

I felt a mix of emotions—I remembered the excitement, the feeling of being in love, and also the sadness of the loss of that relationship, even though it had ended several years ago. I also felt lonely—recognizing that although the current experience was amazing, I wasn’t sharing it with anyone.

The emotions washed over me gently, like the waves against the shore. And I was left with a deep sense of gratitude. When it came down to it, I felt grateful for the gift of life. My life has had a lot of ups and down—experiences of joy and experiences of pain. But it was mine, and it was a gift, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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