Giving Thanks while grieving

To preface this post, I just want to explain what you are about to read. I wrote this “note” on Facebook on Thanksgiving Day in 2011, six months after my mom passed away. It was the first major holiday spent without her but we found ourselves surrounded by a loving extended family who got us out of our house and took care of everything. I woke up that morning surprised to find that I truly did feel grateful to be where I was in my life at that moment in spite of what I had lost and there were so many people that I wanted to thank for getting me through those first six months. Although I won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving this year in the traditional way and relationships have obviously changed since writing it, I am sharing this note again because my appreciation has only grown stronger for the people in my life. Moreover, this note reminds me that even in the worst of times, there really is always something to be thankful for and celebrating whatever that may be is so much more productive than harboring resentment for the things you cannot change. As much as the perfectionist in me would like to edit what I wrote three years ago, I am leaving it intact so as to not change any of the sentiments that I originally felt compelled to share. Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving from Amsterdam!

Finding Thanks to give in 2011

Not many people know the extent of my Terrible Awful Summer. And while the details of those three long months are not worth revisiting here, it is a period of my life that I will never forget. Not just because that was my rock bottom, but because of all the love shown to me then and since then that I am so thankful for. There are a lot of things about 2011 that I am not thankful for at all, that I wish had never happened. But I cannot pretend on this Thanksgiving Day that I am thankful for nothing because I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without so many of you guys.

First, I am thankful for my father. I am thankful for his eternal strength and his commitment to our family. I know I am blessed to have a dad who has been so supportive of my growth not only this year but for the past nineteen years. I am thankful that my dad loves me no matter how many headaches I give/have given him.

I am thankful for Hugo, for putting up with me at my worst but still loving me enough to give me his best bear hugs. I am thankful to have a brother who is brave enough to stay true to himself, always. I am so thankful that we are close and that I can trust him with anything.

I am thankful for my cousin, Sharon, for literally always being there for me in these past six months. For calling me every day this summer, for diving into my chaos this summer and pulling me out of it, for holding me when I needed to be held, for letting me feel anything I needed to feel. For making me laugh and surprising me on my birthday. For her frequent flyer miles! For being a wonderful fairy godmother. I am so thankful for her. …and I also really love her dog…

I am thankful for Tom, Earlyn, Mary, Susan and Richard for letting me stay with them this summer when being at home was too much. I am so grateful that they were only a phone call away and ready to come get me when I needed to get away.

I am thankful for Jo. For not only being a part of our lives since I was two, but for being with me on May 9th. For somehow just knowing, like she always does, that she needed to be there. I am thankful for the friendship shared between her and Mom. I am thankful for all the memories I have of them laughing together. I am thankful for the comfort she has always brought Mom. I am thankful for her whole family and that they are still my best best best friends in the world.

I am thankful for my friends who refused to let me push them away this summer. I am thankful for my friends who stalked my house with casseroles even when I wouldn’t answer their phone calls. I’m thankful for my friends who made multiple trips to Chapel Hill over the summer just to make sure I was ok, and for giving me a reason to get out of bed. I am thankful for all my friends at UNC who made that transition so much easier just with their acceptance of me and their goofiness to cheer me up. I am thankful for the friends who I’ve reconnected with and all the new ones that I’ve made as well.

I am thankful for the Marching Tarheels and all the people in my wonderful section. I am thankful that I didn’t let myself quit this year because it has helped keep me busy when I needed to take my mind off of everything. I am thankful that I can laugh until my stomach hurts AT LEAST once during any given practice or game. I am thankful that my section feels like family to me.

I am thankful that, by some miracle, I am NOT where I was this summer! I am thankful for the strength that Mom gave me to get up every day and go to class. I am thankful that I can be excited about the future again and live in the present. I am thankful that I am happy, healthy, and motivated again.

I am thankful for HUCC. I am thankful for the love I have always found with them since the time I was five. I am thankful for the support and love that Mom found with them as well. I am thankful for all the cards, casseroles, prayers, and hugs they have given to our family over the years. I recently found a box under Mom’s bed filled with cards she had saved from them in her eleven-year struggle with cancer; they meant so much to her and they mean so much to me.

I am thankful for last Thanksgiving. I am thankful that we were able to spend our last Thanksgiving together surrounded by family at the beach. I am thankful that even though no one knew at the time that it was our last Thanksgiving together, so many people were able to be there. It reminds me that things really do happen for a reason.

Finally, I am thankful for Mom. I am thankful for the eighteen years that we shared together and that we shared a bond that really can never be broken, no matter where she is. I am thankful for the lessons I continue to discover that I learned from her. I am thankful that she never let her illness stop her from being happy or from enjoying her family. I am thankful that I can still feel her presence in me. I am sad that she isn’t here today to celebrate with us, but I am thankful that she is no longer in pain. I am thankful to have known such love. I am thankful for her knitted sweater and shawls. I am thankful for her laugh that I can still hear ringing in my ears, and that sometimes I hear in my own laugh and Hugo’s too. I am thankful for her wisdom and the honesty she always had with me. I am thankful for her hot chocolate. I am thankful that because of her love, I am not lost without her. I am thankful that she gave me everything I need for my future, and that I can believe that now. I am thankful that she is not forgotten. I am thankful that she touched so many people’s lives. I am thankful that people listen when I talk about her instead of walking away. I am thankful for all the memories I have of her. I am thankful that the last time I saw her, she was smiling. I am thankful that I dream about her. I am thankful that she is my eternal role model. I am thankful that she taught me her language and exposed me to her culture. I’m thankful that I no longer feel abandoned. I am just thankful for her, every day.

My first Thanksgiving, 1992
My first Thanksgiving, 1992
Our last Thanksgiving with Mom, Wilmington NC, 2010
Our last Thanksgiving with Mom, Wilmington NC, 2010
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