I remember being young ... probably 7 or 8 ... and ringing in the new year at my grandma's house with all my cousins. She would make us eat sauerkraut and pork, and tell us to behave and play nice because "how you welcome the new year is how the whole year will be". We didn't dare act up and risk being in trouble for the whole year ahead. Even as an adult, I have always given a lot of respect to the minutes leading up to midnight on New Year's Eve. I've never been much of a party person, but my husband and I always watch movies with the kids and enjoy the special moments as they dance during the countdown.

This year was different. This year we welcomed the year with heavy hearts. My dad was gone. As the 2017 clock began to tick, I cried. Then I cried because I was crying. Silly as it might seem, in those sad moments, I felt like my sadness was going to ruin the year like my tears would never stop.

My dad died three days before 2017 arrived. For the past 15 months, he fought a rare and persistent cancer. Some might say he lost the battle, but even though he is gone, I say he won the war. During the darkest times, when we wouldn't have thought less of him for giving up, he found the strength to keep going. When the doctors were out of options and all optimistic hope was gone, he found the courage to still give love to the people he knew he would soon leave behind.

He was so many things to so many people. I saw him love his wife so deeply, that I knew marriage was simply about sharing life with your best friend. I never had to wonder where my parents would fit into my life after high school, because he showed me how even as an adult he needed the love of his mom and the advice of his dad. I knew when I got married, it was more than just a husband and a wife because I saw how he loved his in-laws as if they had been there his whole life. Although I was an only child, he taught me the importance of a sibling bond as I watched him offer guidance to his sisters. He taught me the value of a true friend, and what it meant to have their back no matter what. It was through him I realized that at times family would let you down, but at the end of the day it wouldn't matter because it's your family and family is all that ever matters. I learned how to forgive an enemy, how to stand up against an opponent, and most importantly how to see beneath the surface and give the underdog a chance to win.

My dad got less time on this earth than most, but he gave more than any man I have ever known. There will always be a hole in my life where he once stood, but I am one of the lucky ones, because he gave so much to me in the time he had, that I will never have a hole in my heart. 2017 is here!

Yes, some moments will be sad, tears will fall, but all the other moments in-between those are mine to find happiness and success and love. I hope you'll do the same.