A quiet, chilly morning, still, deep in the night, and I am without sleep. Sometimes the mind will not rest and I find myself in a dark living room beneath the subtle light of a single lamp, wandering the Internet, reading messages from family and friends, lost at times in prayer, meditation and memories, and this morning is no different. For whatever reason, my mind is awake and has things to say, and I suspect I will not rest until I have said it.
It is Thanksgiving 2008. I look beyond myself this year to see a world heavy with hardship, fear and sorrow. Over the past year, the news of every family who has had a loss has touched me deeply. Between Thanksgiving last year and this year has been a time of profound healing and personal insight. It has been a year of fluttering, shaking mental fingertips bidding farewell to my oldest son in a different way, a recategorzing of my grief and a sensation of sobs fading in my raw soul, a toddler-like tantrum coming to a shuddering, exhausted end as I open my eyes and begin to look about me again. The release of the anger, the shock, the denial has been a horrifying relief, and so I start my list this year being grateful for the passage of time that allows my memories to hold me with greater clarity and greater joy. I am thankful to be able to feel thankful for the time I got with him in equal measure to the debilitating sorrow. I am thankful for the hope that one day, I may possess the gratitude and joy of Joseph's life and the examples he gave me in much stronger measure, that I believe as I continue to grow as a person, the light of his life will continue to grow within me. I am thankful for healing, for inner strength, for the grace that I believe is God moving in my life. And, of course, I am thankful for the memories and for having been chosen to be his mother. I am thankful he was here at all, however brief. His life changed mine.
I am thankful for a renewal of spirtuality. It is frail and hesitant, wounded and battered and shaken in one of the most profound ways faith can be. I still cannot imagine myself running to God with my sorrow and I still have trouble sitting in true prayer. It is a shy rediscovering of that relationship after years of bitter silence and fury. I am thankful that God is patient. I am thankful that I do in the end still believe. I feared I never could again. I am thankful to learn I never really stopped, but was simply so battered over the past five years of tragedies that my voice, God's voice inside me perhaps, became hoarse and nonsensical to me. I have had to assimilate a great deal of personal suffering and suffering in my children, and God has told me no more times than I am okay with. I am thankful that I can now sit quietly with God and that in my solemn, tentative approach God seems to understand my hesitancy and frailty and simply lets me exist within his presence, without requirement, without demand and without expectation. I am thankful for baby steps of relearning faith.
We have elected an historic president who hopefully can bring more of a moral, human, peaceful grace to the running of our country and our relationship with the world. I am thankful that the bad habits of our country are finally coming to their natural fruition and thankful to see mankind responding on the whole as they should, with less consumption, more internalizing and reflection and renewed attention to the value of saving, working and simple things. I, of course, do not think anyone's suffering is a good thing. But I see examples every single day of suffering gracefully. And I see a spirit of intense hope and understanding in the election of President-elect Obama. I am thankful we have come so far as a country to have the courage to make a change such as this.
I am thankful for the generosity of others. Even as our economy began to crash down around us, we were able to raise over $6800 in Joseph's name back in September for Heroes For Children, a move that has become a pivotal point in the healing of my grief and the sense that Joseph is very much still with the world and, more specifically, with me. Thank God for people who look beyond themselves. Thank God for advances being made in the lives of families dealing with cancer, and for slow but steady progress in the treatment of these children. And I am thankful that these children are without fail the most amazing spirits you could know. Such strength in such little people. Such forebearance. I am thankful for what they continue to teach me.
The last year has been very solidifying in my relationship with Joe. Every relationship must eventually find its way, make the transition from the early honeymoon stages into the workaday world and the inclusion of every mundane irritation and earth shattering tragedy. It was eye opening as we negotiated the muddy waters of blending our lives to find both of our chins stubbornly lifted to the light of our love for one another, and to emerge from the first turbulent year to a steady, strong pulse of peace. I cannot say that I could not do it without Joe. I know that I could now, and it is him who taught me that. But I also know that I choose not to. And that he can say the same. We make one another's lives better. I am thankful for the laughter....so thankful for the punctuations of joy that overtake us and leave me luminous with inner peace and contentment. I am thankful for the sensation of being fragile at times, and sheltered, pampered, protected and spoiled. Every girl needs a little spoiling now and then. I am thankful for the difficult times, the times the only reason I move forward is because I know that he expects it, for the feeling of not being able to bear any sense of being less, that I might not live up to the high esteem he holds me in. He makes me more than I would be motivated to be on my own, and then somehow makes it seem as if I were all that I am in my own right, all along, and that he simply helped me see it. I have grown as a person in this relationship, learned to control a raging, volatile temper and have become a sweeter, more open woman to the world, in large part because of who he allows me to be when I am with him and in our home. I am intensely grateful for the financial well-being that we enjoy in these turbulent times, for our lack of debt and for our nice home and nice cars. I lived many years wondering how I would make it through the month and I am so thankful that he has guided me to a place of personal management that has eliminated that personal stress. I am thankful for the passion between us, for the feeling of femininity I get from his masculinity and for the way we balance one another. I am thankful he is not an angry man, that I do not suffer abuse at his hands of any nature and that he is patient and logical when upset the vast majority of the time. I grew up in a very different atmosphere and no matter how many times I steel myself for the brunt of his temper, it just never comes. I am thankful to be loved, wholly, without reservation, without boundary, without contradiction and with a great deal of passion, humor, joy and peace. I love you forever Joe and I am so grateful God brought you into my life.
I believe I possess many unique and truly fortunate relationships in my life, and one of most important to me beside Joe is my relationship with Stewart, the father of my children. He has handled my falling in love and moving in with Joe with grace, dignity and nothing but a desire for my happiness, and has never treated either Joe or myself with anything but dignity, respect and friendship. He continues to be a wonderful, loving, giving father to our children and a caring, generous friend to me. There are times a hug from him is exactly what I need to add a jolt of tenderness and softness to my day, and I cannot describe how I cherish the evolution of our relationship from child-like lovers to loyal, adult friends. We have weathered the change in our relationship well over the last seven years and I am protective of and grateful for the depth of that relationship. The definition of the word "love" between us has altered, deepened and gained richness over the years, and I am so grateful that we have been able to give our children the family they deserve to have despite change in circumstances. We share deep and special memories, and the maintenance of our friendship has allowed those to live out loud. Stewart, I am so very grateful for you.
I have two beautiful not that little boys who are growing too fast, who evolve and change gradually but steadily and give me glimpses of the men they will become. I am grateful for the steadiness of their love and respect for me, for their generous views on the world and the people in it, for the tender way they treat me and for the absolute absence of pre-teen and teenaged angst in our lives. They fill my life with fun, with love, with laughter and moments of intense, humbling pride. I am so thankful to be a mother and to have all the joy and challenge that title brings, and I feel so privileged that these amazing souls are mine. Nick, Alex, you are unique and precious to me. I love you forever. I like you for always. As long as I'm living, my babies you'll be.
I am beyond fortunate in the family that I was born into. This year has brought more than usual opportunities to reconnect with people who have known and loved me since before I can remember. As far back as my memory goes, they have been there, and it is a deep, abiding love and sense of having a place in the world....aunts who were the epitome of beauty to me as I watched them in their youth, uncles who held me on their knees, lifted me high into the air and tickled me into childish glee, who now look upon me as a woman and still see the girl. I am thankful for the values these people have taught me, for the way we come together after months and even years apart and everything just falls into place. I am so grateful for my aunts, my uncles, my cousins. I love all of you and am just now realizing how deeply you complete my life. More than anything I am just so thankful for the love that is our family. We are blessed beyond measure in one another.
My girlfriends continue to be a life-sustaining force in my life. I do not know how I ever existed without girlfriends, and the years when I had no close ones were lonely and neurotic to say the least. I am convinced a great deal of my mental health rests on these beautiful ladies. It is affirming and energizing to be in their presence, to talk, laugh, share a drink of wine or of coffee. I cherish so much having one Sunday set aside every month simply to connect and come together, and so grateful for the effort that all of you make to keep one another a priority in our lives. I am soul-filled grateful for the unconditional love you have shown me, for the laughter that we find together, the hugs, the deep talks into the depth of dusk and for the way you affirm my existance. I am grateful for the way you can talk me down from high places and give me a soft place to fall, and also for the way you take up the pitchfork and head out as a lynch mob toward any thought or idea that has caused me angst. We've cried together, laughed together, explored new ideas and held one another's feet to the fire. I can't imagine my life without any of you, and I never want to. I picture us as old wrinkled ladies talking about things we should not be in public places, laughing just a little too loud and looking fabulous. We have years of friendship behind us now and it has sustained me through the darkest years of my life. Thank you so much for all of you. Heather, Nessa, Felicia, Amy, Ginger, Becca, Erin, Cecelia, Aislin, Kate....I give very profound and deep thanks for you, more often that you possibly know. We do not see one another as often as I would like, but I love knowing no matter what, we are always there. We ought to write a book about us.
I am grateful for my internet friends, particularly my PW friends, some of whom have been in my life longer than most of my real life friends. Somehow we have turned the hardware of electronics into the softness of womanly friendships and you have given depth, color, meaning and flavor to my life. We are such a different, diverse bunch of people. You have watched me struggle and change as I recover from my grief and have quietly sat by and maintained a loyal affection for me in spite of some truly neurotic moments and odd times of angst as well as through the ups and downs as I try to redefine my life. Thank you for sticking by me. Thank you for loving me, over so many miles, across the land and sea...we are far in distance, but linked in heart. I love all of you and would always want you to know it.
Karen, my online friend who lost her daughter Katie not long after I lost Joseph, thank you for sharing your grief journey with me, for your soft notes of support and spirituality. Your grace has touched my own and brought it forward and you have been a true gift to me. I feel honest, deep love for you though we have never met. I suspect our impish children had something to do with this, and for that I am thankful as well.
I have so much I am grateful for this year, but it strikes me how much of my gratitude revolves around relationships and people. For the first time in my life, I have a sense of having enough, just like that email story that circulated some time ago...."I wish you enough"..... My life is very full. My spirit is very old I think sometimes. I am thankful to have found strength in myself, the kind of strength nobody thinks is there and nobody wants to have to find but is absolutely necessary in certain circumstances. I am grateful for the lessons the difficulties of my life have taught me. I am thankful to be quietly okay within myself, to find on the whole, my heart is happy, and that happiness actually engulfs the tragedy of Joseph's loss now, that they assimilate into one person, whole and complicated. I am grateful to be multifaceted, to not have all the answers and to know there is more yet to discover and see, more to learn, more ways to grow. I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful for survival. I am thankful....for gratitude.