Transforming Loss into Gratitude: Giving Thanks 2010

As I was pondering what I might write for Thanksgiving, a single thought repeatedly entered my mind: this is a tough year for giving thanks. Maybe that ins’t the most uplifting thought for this holiday of gratitude. Bear with me. I get there.

If you’ve read my other posts, you know that my father died in July after an aggressive cancer gave him seven weeks of living hell, most of that on the respiratory floor or critical care unit of his local hospital. Since my mother died 12 years before him, I became the representative of my father’s estate, a job that has been anything but a glamorous. At times, I’ve been in a tough position with my siblings, pressing the specifics of the will and probate law. While auctioning my parent’s belongings, I accepted a $15,000 bid for the sale of my father’s home. (Gasp! That’s less than a cheap new car.) Next week we close the deal. Then everything is gone.

It’s as if every shred of physical evidence of my childhood has been swept away. I’m reminded of Tibetan Buddhist monks who spend days painstakingly creating beautiful, incredibly detailed mandalas from brightly colored grains of sand only to erase them with the sweep of a hand. This is an act that illustrates the concept of impermanence, the truth that nothing lasts. Nothing. There’s the odd thought that takes me through my darkness into the light of gratitude.

As a direct result of the inevitable suffering of illness and death, I’ve spent valuable time with my older brother and sisters, appreciating them each as I never have before. I’ve received such outpourings of compassion from my friends - and there are a lot of them - that I truly understand their love for me and mine for them. I’ve indulged my thirst for discovery by exploring our family history through pictures and documents written in German. I spent a lot of time laughing and talking about some pretty heady topics with my children as we drove back and forth to the hospital an hour away to sit with Dad, an opportunity I know not all parents have. I’ve leaned heavily on my husband’s generosity and grace and been richly rewarded with seemingly endless support that epitomizes our twenty years together.

And so, though I’ve experienced (and am experiencing) deep sadness, this has been a year filled with immeasurable compassion, love, and joy, often right in the midst of mind blowing pain. In one of life’s twists I didn’t expect, I’ve learned that accepting impermanence is a surprising path to thankfulness. I hold an unquantifiable gratitude for the people and things in my life. My riches are certainly abundant!

I imagine those who don’t have the riches I am so thankful for and wonder how I can give some of what I have to them. I’ve called on some of my friends to join me in blogging, posting gratitude-filled updates to Twitter and Facebook, and giving in support of Epic Thanks, a global celebration of gratitude and giving that honors inspiration changemakers who create hope in our world. Perhaps you’ll join us?

Yes? Great! No? Well, you did read this. Either way, thank you.

Image by Wonderlane [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, Thank you, Wonderlane.