sheri salata
Sheri Salata with her brother, John, October 2009.
One thing I've learned for sure over the years: Your relationships with others reflect your relationship with yourself, wherever you may be in your personal development.

The key to meaningful connections with the people in your life is making yourself whole by honoring your body, mind, and spirit—filling the voids that cause you not to love yourself. You can't give love if you don't have it. And you can't receive (or even perceive) it because you won't recognize it when it shows up. You've got to care for yourself in order to be able to care for others.

During the past year I've watched the executive producer of my show, Sheri Salata, reorder her life. She gets up at the crack of dawn—4:30—to work out. She's given up fast food. Committed to eating healthier. All the basics of self-care.

Less than a week before last Christmas, Sheri lost her brother, John Salata. Only 42, he died suddenly in his sleep, leaving behind a wife, Jodi, a former wife, four young children, his parents, and his sister. All of them in shock and mourning.

When I first spoke to Sheri after John's passing, I was struck by her calm. She hadn't yet begun to process his death, but she'd made a decision to remain open to whatever the experience of losing a loved one could teach her. She said she was determined to see everything through the eyes of love because love is what had defined her relationship with John. From the day he arrived, when Sheri was 8 years old, he felt like a gift.

So every phone call, every inquiry, every word of consolation, every memory of John she shared with her parents, even having to walk into her parents' house and tell them he was gone—all of it, she perceived as moments of love.

During the funeral arrangements, and through all the difficult decisions that are part of dealing with death, she thought (and actually said out loud), "This is love." The gut-wrenching pain in her mom and dad's eyes: "This is love." The profound sorrow on Jodi's face: "This is love."

At the memorial service, Sheri told us that a month before John died, their father fell from a ladder and broke his arm. After he was released from the hospital, John volunteered to help him around the house. They spent more time together than they had since John was a boy. Sheri said, "That, too, was love."

It was a eulogy that made you want to stop wasting time, start living your life better, and give what you can—while you can—in all the relationships that matter.

My takeaway was that everything changes when seen with love.

I know the reason Sheri was able to give so much in the midst of her own sorrow was that she'd been working seriously on giving love to herself. We can see through the eyes of love only when there's love in our eyes. And to be able to see that way while yet we live is the biggest gift of all.

More of what Oprah knows for sure: Making yourself feel proud

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