On New Year’s Day 2020, I began a gratitude jar. Each Sunday I wrote on a slip of paper something for which I was thankful. My goal was to open the jar at the end of the year and read all of the things for which I was thankful. Little did I know that three months later we would be in lockdown, frightened and alone in the face of a monstrous pandemic about which we knew practically nothing.
It became increasingly difficult to find things for which I was grateful… indeed I missed a few Sundays as the weeks rolled on in grey sameness. By Thanksgiving 2020 I opened the jar because I needed so badly to remind myself about why I was thankful. I couldn’t wait until the end of the year to grab hold of some gratitude.
And then my son died.
I started to slip into a feeling of emptiness and abandonment. I got stuck in my grief and loss. I forgot to look for things for which to be grateful.
And then my mother died.
I told people I was okay and I stepped up my activities. But I was anxious and depressed. I was tired all the time. I injured my knee repeatedly and ended up in the emergency room. I let an infection get out of control and again required hospitalization. I was going downhill fast.
Now, on the anniversary of my son’s death, I am beginning to be thankful for the blessings my son brought into my life.
He was a miracle from the start. He was born blue with the cord around his neck but he recovered quickly. He was a loving child … so sensitive and open that he was also easily hurt. His greatest joy was helping and giving to others. For example, he bought two large bags of potatoes directly from the farmer and then gave away half of them. (And I pouted because he bought them with money I had given him to fix his car.)
I am grateful that he lived, that he made a difference in the world and that he gave me a wonderful grandson and two daughters-in-law.
As my pastor, Nora Vedress, reminded me this Sunday: “There are many studies that show that … expressing our gratitude regularly, especially in times of stress and trauma, makes us healthier and stronger as individuals and stronger as a community.”
Forgetting to be thankful has hurt me … body, mind and spirit. Perhaps I need to start a new gratitude jar so that I will not forget to be thankful. My health depends on it.