24 Nov Being Thankful When It’s Hard to Be Thankful
Written on the eve of Thanksgiving, 2016
I am sitting here late on the eve of Thanksgiving in a hospital room with my 74 year old mother. Less than 24 hours
ago, we found out she had brain cancer. We brought her into the emergency room for what we thought was a urinary tract infection. But after a scan, we found it was much much worse.
They will do surgery the day after tomorrow and then a long and uncertain road lies ahead. We have not received any prognosis yet. For the moment, everything is uncertain.
Meanwhile, all around us, there is holiday cheer. Everyone is buzzing about the long weekend. They talk about baking pies and cooking turkeys, getting together with family. And about how now is the time to be thankful.
Except I haven’t been feeling very thankful. I have been numb with shock for most of the last 24 hours.
But as I sit here with my mother in this hospital room on this quiet moment late into the night, I have decided to give thanks. Because even in the darkest of moments, I know I can find bits of beauty, satisfaction, and even joy.
- I am thankful for my mother’s friend who found my mother confused and called us with concern.
- I am thankful I was already here visiting my mother in Utah for Thanksgiving so I could squeeze her hand (and my sister’s) as we received the diagnosis.
- I am grateful that when I succumbed to tears and sadness, my mother was there to wrap her arms around me.
- I am thankful for a touching meeting in the hospital between my mother and father – now divorced but friends – where they shared memories and tears.
- I am grateful I could be here for my sister to help shoulder some of the burden.
- I am grateful to the hospital staff who have been thoughtful and sensitive to our needs.
- I am grateful for this comfortable hospital bed they have given me to sleep on so I can be here with my mother who is feeling a little scared and alone.
- I am grateful for the exuberance of my mother who has always had a kid’s heart.
- I am grateful for the friends and family who have rallied together in these last hours to surround her with love and support.
I don’t know what the future holds for her. But at this moment as I watch her sit in her hospital bed reading her book, I am grateful for her. And that is all I will allow for this moment.
Building a practice of gratitude has been life saving for me. I started a gratitude journal several years ago because I kept reading how it has been scientifically proven to make someone happier. So I thought, why not?
I went from a skeptic to a convert. Writing down what I felt grateful for, even on the worst of days, has allowed me to find beauty every day. Because that is all we have. Today.
I wish all of you a happy and safe Thanksgiving. And if you wish, say a short prayer for my mother.