Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude

Mentally flipping back the pages of the calendar to November of 2011, my husband and I were struck by all that has transpired in our lives over the past year.  These twelve months has been some of the most difficult days of our lives.  Amazingly, we both have come through health challenges and a major move.  Today, we are happily enjoying our new home and surroundings in much improved health.  Jim will need some surgery in the next month, but in so many ways, we are so much better.   Somehow, just saying that I am grateful for all this healing and change seems a bit trite.  After all, tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Shouldn't we all be giving thanks?  Isn't that why we celebrate this holiday?

Gratitude is not something I have ever expressed enough.  I sometimes think I grumble and mumble about things more than I give thanks for things.  I take all of the good things in my life for granted too often.  I don't stop and take stock of all of my many blessings.  During the month of November, I have been writing daily facebook posts about those things for which I am most grateful.  Even that practice has not even scratched the surface when it comes to truly assessing the multitude of  reasons I have to give thanks.

This past year has truly been one of the worst in my life, but it also has been the year when I have most been aware of how blessed I have been.  In December of 2011, my husband had a 95% blockage of his LAD that was discovered before suffered what would have been a massive heart attack that most likely would have been fatal.  (You can read about this by clicking above.)  I don't even have the words to express my gratitude for my own ability to  recognizing his symptoms and get him to the hospital.  Thankfully, the doctors were able to save his life by giving him a stent.  Thankfully, he was able to recover his health quickly.

Not even one month after Jim's heart incident, I fell down our basement stairs and had a brain injury.  This injury was followed by months of dizziness and other symptoms that come from a moderate traumatic brain injury.  I also suffered from a debilitating vestibular disorder, heart arrhythmia, and episodes of a very rapid heart beat.  For over six months, I could not drive at all.  I also suffered from anxiety attacks that nearly crippled my ability to carry on my normal life.  During all of this, I also continued to deal with the grief of losing a daughter to suicide just a year and a half before.   Somehow, today, I can say with extreme gratitude, that I am no longer suffering from these symptoms that were robbing me of the life I had always lived.

Many people, those in the healing profession, family, and friends, have brought both Jim and myself to this current place of health.  I have had several women in my life who are in the healing profession without whom I would not be where I am today.

We have had two wonderful realtors.  One helped us sell our home in Pueblo, and one helped us find our wonderful new home.  We had a multitude of friends and family who helped us move from one home and get settled in another.  When I think of friends, I can't forget about all of you in the blogosphere.  You have been an important part of my journey this past year.

I have a mother who prays for me every single day.  She is 96 years old.  I am blessed beyond measure to still have her in my life.  I have four beautiful children and seven amazing grandchildren.  I am also blessed by three stepchildren and their beautiful children.  My family life is rich and full.

This past year, my awareness of how shallow my gratitude expressiveness has been throughout my life was made painfully clear when I read Ann Voskamp's amazing book, One Thousand Gifts.  This book played an important role in my healing.  As I read and reflected on Ann's beautifully crafted words, I struck by the simple truth that gratitude brings healing.  When one is suffering from scary symptoms that cause one to think that life as one knew it is forever changed, it is difficult to feel gratitude.  When one is broken by grief over the loss of a child, it is even harder to find a reason to give thanks.  Somehow, throughout my journey through grief, I have learned that my capacity for appreciating life has gone deeper, my soul has been expanded.

In the margins of Voskamp's book, on April 29, 2012, I wrote, 23 months today next this passage:  "Love's a deep wound and what is mother without a child and why can't I hold on to now forever and her here and me here and why does time snatch away a heart I don't think mine can beat without?  Why do we all have to grow old?  Why do we have to keep saying good-bye?"  These words were so painful to read 23 months to the day after I lost my beloved Julie.  I too had once stroked my beautiful girl's curls.  Tragically, the last time I did so was after she died.  How could I feel gratitude?  How could I not be bitter?  How could I not stop living when I told her good-bye?  How could I go on when I would never again hear her voice or feel her arm draped around my shoulder?

Many days, I sat in my chair and prayed for healing for my husband, for my children, and for me.  Ann writes, "The only real prayers are the ones mouthed with thankful lips."  Wow!  That struck me hard.   I have this wonderful family in my life.  They are the blessings of my life.  How could I not be thankful to have them to pray for?  Many days I feared what the future would hold for all of us.  Finally,  I chose not to live my life in fear.  I chose not to fear losing again.  Ann also writes, "All fear is but the notion that God's love ends."  Since I know in the very core of my being that His for me love does not end. It never has.  It never will.  I am able to be filled with gratitude.

Expressing gratitude frees the mind to see all that one has in this life.  This is premise of Voskamp's book.  She set out to write down one thousand gifts for which to grateful.  It transformed her life while she kept this list.  She helped to change mine as I read about her lists.  She helped me to learn how to be thankful in the midst of much turmoil and illness.  For that I am very grateful.

So while tomorrow will be filled with the traditional Thanksgiving activities, when I give thanks, it will be with a new sense of gratitude for more than I could ever begin to list. The short list will include much thanks for healing, for new beginnings, for a wonderful supportive husband, and for a family of children and grandchildren all of whom bring me great joy and give rich meaning to my life.

29 comments:

Kay said...

You've truly had so many terrible challenges, Sally and I am in awe of the way you've been able to deal with all of them. In times of trouble, I hope that I'll be able to find the strength and resilience that you have shown. You are truly a teacher for all of us. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

#1Nana said...

I am so glad to hear you are doing well. I know it has been a challenging journey. Thank you for sharing it with us. You help all of us grow. I'm sending you a big cyber hug...have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

#1Nana said...

I am so glad to hear you are doing well. I know it has been a challenging journey. Thank you for sharing it with us. You help all of us grow. I'm sending you a big cyber hug...have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Grandmother said...

You've been through so much and emerged healed. Brava! I enjoyed reading your gratitude list and celebrate with you your abundance. This blog world has so enriched my life and I'm grateful for your part in that. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

DJan said...

I'm sitting here early on Thanksgiving morning surrounded by family (who are all still asleep) and reading my blogs. I always am happy to see something from you, Sally. And you have had the year from hell, but it's behind you now. I am so happy to hear you are loving your new home! Blessings to you and yours, Sally. I'm glad to be in your life, too. :-)

Jeanie said...

Lots of lessons for me in all you have said here. I feel like I do maintain gratitude for all I am blessed with but I sometimes feel I can never give thanks enough.
One of my daughters is doing the
30 days of graditude on FB and it has been interesting to see the depth of the things she has listed.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

rosaria williams said...

And this is how we heal,move on to create, move on to take care of what and whom needs our care, move on to reflect on what a great voyage life is. If we live, and live fully, we climb mountains; we fall in ravines; we see dawns and sunsets and rain and storms and all the scratches and bruises just chronicle our ever-reaching, ever-ending human trek.
Blessings to you and yours.
I'm thankful for your kind words when I needed them.

troutbirder said...

I have many similar feelings though my occasional cynical side says my willingness to plow doggedly ahead may partially come from my inherited German stubborness...:)

troutbirder said...

Ooops and I forgot the tag line wishing you and all of your a Happy Thanksgiving, Sally.

Barb said...

I came by to tell you Happy Thanksgiving, Sallie. I'm off-line a lot now, trying to enjoy my life with family and friends. Your post is so heartfelt, and if anyone can speak to coming through change, turmoil, and grief it's you. I truly believe that if I can focus on thankfulness I attract good into my life. May the coming year hold blessings for you. Good Luck to Jim in his surgery.

thisisme said...

Hi Sally. You've certainly had more setbacks than many of us my friend. But you have still retained your faith, and you and your hubby have regained your health. Praise be for that. This was a lovely post for Thanksgiving, and a reminder to us all that we do , indeed, have so many things to be thankful for. Hugs.

Bossy Betty said...

What a year and yet you have such clarity as to what is important in your life. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Betsy Adams said...

Hi Sally, I enjoyed reading ALL of this post... Since I have met you and have seen that new home, I feel as if I know you pretty well now... You and your Sweetie have had a huge experience this year--good and bad... BUT---look where you are now. WOW!!!! God Bless You BOTH..

Let's all be thankful on this Thanksgiving Day.
Hugs,
Betsy

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Sally, I have followed your story as you have blogged about it this year, but this post added some new depth and background. It is wonderful to read about this book and to know how much it helped you. My challenges have been far less serious than yours but developing an attitude of gratitude has helped me, too. I read Sarah Ban Breathnach's "Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy" and just yesterday I decided to reread it a day at a time in the coming year. Stay well, and enjoy the holiday season.

Friko said...

I am so full of admiration for you. Grateful in spite of all that has happened to you and looking forward with hope and thankfulness, that is no mean feat.

May your days be filled with joy.

becca said...

hugs

Lynilu said...

We humans tend to see the bad before we pay attention to the good in our lives. It's unfortunate we do that, but I think we appreciate the fortunes all that more when we come up for air. There are things in my life I will never "get over." But I also recognize the blessings loud and clear.

Peace and happiness for you and your family, dear lady. :)

Rose said...

You are an inspiration, Sally, and I am glad that you are finding healing at last. Although I try to remind myself of all that I should be grateful for, I find myself grumbling and complaining far too often. Then I read of all that you have gone through this year and read posts from another blogger that is going through the trials of cancer, and I realize my problems are pretty trivial in comparison. I think we all need to be reminded that blessings surround us if we only open our eyes and hearts.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Jackie said...

What a blessing for ME to read this blog. Thank you, Sally. You have expressed thanksgiving from your heart...and you have blessed me as I have read this.
I pray for a speedy recovery for Jim after his surgery in December. Please, let him know that I will be praying for him.
Also, give your sweet Mother a hug from me. As I read about your love for her and her love for you, it touched me. She sounds like an incredible lady. You are both blessed.
Sending you smiles and wishing you a good week. (I apologize for not getting here sooner. We have been in NC with my parents (81 and 86); we spent Thanksgiving with them. I was away from Blogland for a while, but am so grateful to find a heartwarming post such as yours when I returned. Thank you.
Hugs and love,
Jackie

Jeanie said...

This is a moving post. I do remember so many of the things of which you speak and being so very concerned for your health (both of you) -- both physical and the mental strain that comes with those challenges. You are right -- gratitude should be thought of often, just not on Thanksgiving. But you have pretty well nailed all the things that really matter -- and I don't think that comes up just once a year. It comes, bit by bit, throughout the year. Bravo, my friend. May 2013 be much calmer for you.

Dee said...

Dear Sally, thank you for this inspiring posting that so richly details the past year and your response to it. Voskamp's book was a gift from the Universe that calls forth gratitude doesn't it? That gift came at the right time for you. How did you come upon it? Did someone recommend it? So often books came like heavenly messengers to us. Peace.

Terri Tiffany said...

You have been through a difficult time--worse than anything I ever have and to see you happy again and grateful is wonderful! I'm thankful to be able to read your posts and see and hear you come through so much.

Cape Cod Kitty said...

Hi Sally,
I love this post and especially the emphasis on gratitude. You have had so many challenges and yet your beautiful heart shines through and helps you to keep going.
I think back, to the wonderful trip you had to meet blogging friends and I am sure that helped in your healing.
I hope to meet you next year!
Marcia

Deb Shucka said...

What a lovely and powerful and inspiring post. As we've shared before, the terrible gifts that come in deep grief are beyond anything we could ever imagine, and it's only a grateful heart than can claim those gifts. I'll be adding this book to my next Amazon order for sure. Thank you for your words. Sending big hugs to you. I miss you!

Maggie May said...

It is amazing how bad things happen within a short time and it is also amazing at the resilience we find inside ourselves through times of crisis.
It is also amazing how thankful we all our for the many Blessings that we still have.
Thankfulness is the key to healing, I think.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Linda Myers said...

I'm so glad to hear that you're feeling better, Sally!

Thank you for your grateful post.

LC said...

Thank you for this post. You have reinforced truths I am aware of, but sometimes I become lax in practicing CONCIOUS gratitude. I appreciate, too, your linking to your account of Jim's narrow escape and Ann Vosscup's book. Thanks again!

Dee said...

Dear Sally, just an update. I got the book and I'm reading and enjoying it now. She's a poet. Peace.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Sally I know just how much a year an bring. This time last year hubby was just home after w 5 bypass open heart surgery. Since then we've taken more time to be together but both our girls have moved away. It's an odd feeling yet we can stay in touch with sms etc.
Glad you are seeing the good in all. HUGS.