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.