Around this time last year my best friend and I were shopping at a Target in Houston. She was in Texas to receive cancer treatment at MD Anderson and I was there to offer moral and emotional support. We visited the store to stock up on essentials for her 5 week stay.

The first stop – seasonal dollar items located within steps of the store entrance. Yes, we absolutely need magnets, plastic tumblers, and heart shaped notepads. What if we decide to create a paper mosaic and get thirsty while arranging it on the fridge?

Next stop – women’s apparel. On the left. It’s always on the left. Thank you Target for your store layout consistency and also for the electrical currents that must emanate from the display racks, attracting those over-sized red and gray buggies (as we call them here in WV) to the center of each department making it impossible to spend less than 2 hours and $200 per visit.

I remember walking past the swim suits when I heard her laugh and say, “Look! I found the perfect shirt for you!”

She was holding this.

She had been diagnosed a few months prior to the trip. I remember when she called to tell me the news. I was sitting in Panera at the Town Center Mall, eating a Cobb salad with unripe avocados. I was frustrated with my subpar superfood and was ready to launch into complaint as soon as I saw her name pop up on my phone.

I answered her call and began my rant. I grumbled about my meal as she sat in silence. Her lack of commiseration surprised me. I paused. A lump began to form in my throat as I waited for her to speak.

Ten minutes later my salad was untouched and my face was wet with tears.

We have been friends for nearly 30 years. Friends really isn’t the right word. She’s more like a sister to me. We have been through so much together. Cheerleader tryouts, teenage crushes, broken bones, homework, graduations, funerals, vacations, marriages, pregnancies, my divorce, her illness and thankfully, her remission. I’ve cried on nearly all of these occasions and over 30 years, that’s a lot of tears.

I have heard that crying is a weakness. I’ve been told that I’m too sensitive and that I need to toughen up. That I overreact and I shouldn’t be so emotional. I disagree. I have accepted that it’s who I am and how I express emotions and I’m ok with it. Those who know me and love me are ok with it too. In fact, they’ve come to expect it (and joke about it at times).

There is a Charlotte Brontë quote that says, ‘Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive.’

Last week I was at the Grand Canyon. It was my first time visiting. As I approached the pathway to the South Rim I was so overwhelmed with emotion that once again, my eyes misted over and that familiar lump in my throat returned. I was awestruck by the magnitude of it all.

The ridges, the sunlight passing through the clouds, the thin, crisp air. How could a place with so many visitors and tourists be so quiet and peaceful? Standing on the edge of those mile high walls raised awareness of my own mortality. I was having a spiritual moment as I peered down into the gorge.

I tried to blink away the tears.

I thought about the shirt from Target and smiled to myself. I remembered that it’s ok to cry when your best friend has cancer, or when picking out Hallmark cards, or while watching cat food commercials, or when your child reaches a milestone, or you see old people holding hands, or when song lyrics stir up thoughts of someone you love. And crying is a perfectly natural reaction to seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time…even if everyone else around you is laughing and taking selfies.

The way that I observe and experience the world may require a few more tissues than most. I might cry a lot, but I’m still pretty cool. And each tear is a reminder that I am alive. For that, I’m grateful.