Every new loss I see in my hospice work is another opportunity for gratitude. Every death is a chance to be thankful for the people I have in my life. As I meet new people and watch them let go of someone they love, I am reminded of the wonderful relationships I have. I invite the emotions to swirl around inside of me, sadness stirring, empathy seeping from my pores, and I say silent thank yous.
If a wife says good bye to her husband, I can remember too well what it was like to say good bye to mine and then I smile on my drive home to my significant other who is most likely making me delicious food or waiting to tell me about his day. If adult children are saying good bye to their mother, I take it as a cue to call my own mother on my way home to tell her I love her and am so glad to have her in my life.
If these losses are cues to be grateful (and to express my gratitude) for my own relationships and the people close to me, the daily interactions that are full of impending loss are cues to be grateful for my own health. I never want to take my health for granted. I may sit regularly with fabulous people who are living with (but dying from) any number of conditions - various cancers, ALS, heart diseases, MS, etc. And as I sit with them, traveling through their thoughts and memories with them, I am reminded to be thankful for my own vitality, mobility, independence, and wealth of wellness. I get in my car and sing to the radio, cognizant of the air filling my lungs and the power behind my voice. I walk, aware of the spring in my step. I go to sleep each night with the promise of a new and beautiful tomorrow. I am lucky.
Is it possible that I can leave a trail?
I'd like to think so. I'd really like to believe that amid grief, I can leave something behind. I think we all can. Sometimes, I feel like the world doesn't give me what I need. Things are not offered that I wish were offered. And when that happens, I sigh really loudly and become upset/dejected/irritated for a moment...then, I make the first move. When I want to feel better myself, I send things out into the universe.
How do you welcome a life-altering event with open arms? How do you relinquish control and give yourself over to the process? How do you move forward each day without expectations, just gratitude?
Those are the very questions I asked myself in the past few years since my own life-altering event. I still ponder them every day, holding fast to the belief that gratitude changes everything.
I may have a baby face, but I have an old soul. And I know that we were put here on this earth to live life to the fullest. "The fullest" means something different for each of us, but we are not meant to live for fleeting moments of amazing, resigned to status quo the rest of the time - we are meant to turn those fleeting moments of amazing into hours and days and weeks and months and years. That is the secret to this thing called life.
When you're shown a slice of amazing, it's a gift. It's okay to stand in awe of it for a little while... but then you have to let gratitude show you the way.
Every time I'm shown a slice of amazing, I soak it up and carry it with me. Then when I go to sleep at night, I say to myself: How can I make more of this happen? How can I have more of this in my life? How can I treat this as something precious so it never goes away and actually multiplies?
I'd like to think that's why my life is not a mess of misery and pain. It's not that there's not misery and pain in it at times... it's just that I choose not to ignore the amazing... in fact, I am beyond thankful for the amazing... and in asking for it to multiply, the misery and pain diminishes considerably.
My heart often hurts for the grief, loss, and pain I see. But rather than carrying it with me in a way that internalizes that ball of sadness, I do my best to turn it into something else as I make my way through my own daily life.
When loss incites gratitude...when loss invites gratitude...you're doing it right. At least that's how I choose to think of it.