With each passing year, it seems tears of joy and sadness surface more quickly and more easily.

The emotions may be sparked by anything -- a scene in a movie, a photograph or photo essay in the newspaper or online, a human interest story, or a piece of information shared by or about an individual or family.

I became more keenly aware of the frequency of these tears several years back, around 9/11.

Nowadays, it's not unusual for me to get choked up when I hear "The Star Spangled Banner" played, for example, at a sporting event.

Although I've known the words since childhood, they mean something now.

Having lived through 9/11 and having experienced the sorrow and grief of such a tragedy, and having been blessed to be a part of and feel the communal experience following the attack on our country, my heart feels the words today and it evokes deep emotion.

I think of the men and women before me -- like my late grandfather, Daniel Cummings, who served in World War I -- and other family members and friends who have served, or are serving our country today, standing up for the rights and freedoms we hold so dear.

So I get choked up when I hear the National Anthem and, yes, Lee Greenwood's "God Bless The U.S.A."

I'm sure I'm not the only one.

But it doesn't stop there.

At New Milford's Memorial Day parade this year, I was overcome with emotion when one of the Water Witch Hose Co. No. 2's trucks drove along the parade route displaying two banners in memory of Oliver Ciparelli, who two years ago at age 2 was diagnosed with metchromatic leukodystrophy, a rare genetic disorder that destroys the white matter in the brain.

I didn't know Ollie, who died in mid-May, or his family. But I knew his story and I have a blue "Oliver's Team" bracelet.

As I sat with my own children, my heart sank and I cried as I thought about this young boy and his family.

Tears surfaced again a few minutes later when I spotted a community leader who is battling cancer walking proudly in the parade.

At first I wasn't sure it was him because his body is thinner and more fragile than it had been in the recent past.

A few days later -- at this year's Relay for Life -- I was moved to see the camaraderie and spirit of hope among those present, including cancer survivors and those battling the disease now, as well as friends, family members and supporters, all raising money for the American Cancer Society.

I choked up as I walked and read the luminary paper bags lining the edge of the track, each one with the name of an individual whose life has been touched by cancer.

These recent experiences remind me of our human condition, our need to connect to other human beings and our need to feel and express emotion.

Every one of us has a heart.

And some days, tears of joy or sorrow slip down our cheeks as we observe, experience and feel the world in which we live.

With each heartbeat, we are blessed.