Traditionally, I have used November to reset my gratitude meter, to intentionally practice thanksgiving for everything in my life. I have to confess, initiating this practice this year has been somewhat difficult, particularly in anticipation of today. I am not certain why this year has been more challenging than some others, but it has. See, today is an anniversary in my life and one that I’ve been dreading, a specter looming in the background of my consciousness over the past several weeks. In any case, here are the barest details: eleven years ago on this date, I learned that my mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and that my last chance to have a child of my own had failed…all within about 20 minutes’ time. For those of you who know me best, you may imagine how devastating this was. To simultaneously be faced with the loss of both of my past and my future was…brutal, crushing, and heartbreaking. I scarcely have words to fully describe what the news I received on this day eleven years ago did to me, spiritually and emotionally, but I can tell you that, more than any other day in my life, it changed me. It rewired the very core of my being, and I have never been the same. I still feel the weight of it, in some way, with each breath that I take. It’s never far beneath the surface, and takes very little for it to come forth, choking me and leaving me gasping.
And, yet, I am compelled to find some good in this experience. To practice gratitude, which I believe is a gift that allows us to redeem the unredeemable in our lives. To realize that we are like gold, refined only through fire. This is the challenge: to find the blessings in the darkness. For me, there is much more to be learned, but the last eleven years have given me glimpses of the Divine that I would have never known otherwise. I have learned that my relationship with my mom continues on, even now after she is gone. I have learned that my father is a far more complex and fascinating person than I had ever imagined. I have learned that my marriage can be a source of solace deeper than I had expected. I have learned that I am more than my genetics. I am learning that I am perfectly complete, just as I am (I would like to say that I have learned that, past tense, but it’s still a process). I have learned that, sometimes, we need grief to teach us about love, and that we cannot know completeness until we have known brokenness.
Each of you has a day like mine. Each of you has a watershed moment in your life. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will. I can’t tell you how to navigate it; clearly, I am still grappling with how to do so in my own experience. I do know, however, that these events leave us with a choice: either be consumed, or be grateful. I have been, and probably will be again, temporarily consumed, but I refuse to be buried. Gratitude is the force that allows me to cling to hope, and hope allows me to have a future.
So, for today: I choose to have hope. I choose to have a future. I choose to be grateful.