Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Grief & Gratitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie
I hoped to have some kind of grand thing to say as I continue to gain perspective on the last year.

I don’t.

Family members are still hurting—and acting out in that hurt.

I am still hurting.

We are all still hurting.

The thing I never expected, though…

My deep, intense grief has changed me.

I have always envied people who are naturally and graciously grateful for what and who they have. I always wanted to feel that in an authentic, genuine way. I even started keeping a gratitude practice (a la Melody Beattie). It felt good, and I processed a lot of anger doing that list. But something was missing…

And when my mom died, that elusive piece finally fell into place.

I suddenly realized how deeply grateful I was for my Pathways journey, so that I had the courage to reconcile with my mom. Together, we built a relationship that was stronger than all of our previous years combined. I will forever cherish the last two years I had with her.

I realized how much my mom actually did for me—how much she sacrificed, how much she gave of herself, how deeply she cared for me.

I realized how many people actually care about me (and by extension, my family). People came out of nowhere to help, offer words of kindness and love, and to just sit quietly and hold me.

(There is nothing better you can do for a grieving person than to sit quietly and offer a hand or hug.)

I realized how selfish I had been when others lost a parent or sibling. It was because of my own fear—I didn’t want to face that impending reality in my own life, and addressing it in someone else’s life made me vulnerable. I have asked for forgiveness for not understanding, for not reaching out when part of me wanted to, for being too afraid of my own thoughts and feelings when I could have stepped into something more important than me.

I have allowed myself to fall completely open. I have been raw. I have allowed others to hold me while I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe. I have posted here and other places. I have exposed grief for what it is, and that has helped me process it and move through it.

I will never get over losing my mom.

You never just “get over” it.

But when I pause to think of how rich my life really is, I am, without a doubt—blown away.

I would trade it all to have her back. Perhaps I could have learned these lessons a different way.

But I can’t change it… all I can do is change my own perception.

Gratitude lives in my heart. Often, my first thoughts when I wake up are, “Oh, good.”

As in,
“Oh, good, I get another day.”
“Oh good, I get to do _____ today.”
“Oh good, I’m up in time for _____.”
“Oh good, I’ll get to see _____ today.”

The dark moments are still there. They aren’t quite as close in front of my face as they were a year ago, but they’re still lurking, and they still rise up to punch me in the face periodically.

In those moments—when hope and faith feel like nothing more than oddly-shaped letters written by someone else, and certainly meant for someone else—one thing has carried me through.


This Thanksgiving, I am doing something whimsical and fun. Maybe I’ll talk about it at some point, and maybe I won’t…

And on Friday, my family is getting together. Not to celebrate… but since this Friday marks one year since my mama’s passing, it felt like the best thing to do. Who wants to be alone on an anniversary like that?

I sure as hell don’t.

In some ways, I feel like I’ve come alive in a completely new way because of all that I (and my family) have experienced this year.

I feel like I can never adequately or appropriately thank everyone who has extended a helping hand over the last year. Everyone who keeps me (and family) in their prayers—those who have mentioned it to me and those of you who haven’t. I have felt shepherded through this year, in a way that I have never felt shepherded through anything. And I thinks The Dude Upstairs™ knew that I needed something extra… a lot extra… and He delivered.

As He always does.

And so, on this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for right now:
For who I am right now
For where I am right now
For who I have right now
For what I have right now
For what I believe right now
For what I hope for right now

Because right now is truly all that we have… it is the only guarantee.

All of the moments of “right now” build up to create moments, hours, days, and years—and the stories of our lives.

That is what truly makes right now precious. Because it’s fleeting, yet if we are present and in the moment… “fleeting” doesn’t matter, because we have experienced right now with every cell, ever sense, every thought, every feeling.

We have this life so that we can live it… right now.

And in my book, that’s about as amazing as it gets…

“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief, but gratitude.” – Thorton Wilder

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