Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gratitude and the Fullness of Life

Time is a funny thing. It has intervals, but cannot really be measured. It takes up space, and yet is invisible. It is priceless, and yet cannot be bought. As I recall the absolute swirl that November has been, I am humbled by this caretaker of our lives, this fickle and persnickety Father Time. He masters all and answers to none. And he marches on. One week ago today I spent my next to last day as a 50 year old. Two weeks ago today, Paris and all of Europe was normal. Three weeks ago today, my sister-in-law woke up at the age of 50 for the first time. Time is fleeting and fast, and is not sure beneath our step. 

As I pause in preparation for our national day of Thanksgiving in America, I ponder that this is the first year where neither of our sons will be home, and I ponder that this is the first year that my brother-in-law maneuvers his way through his first holiday without his life partner, and I ponder that we all live on a thin line, walking that fine wire between yes and no, today and tomorrow, here and gone.

Since turning 50 last November, I have lived in as much a state as humanly possible of awareness, of presence, of seizing moments, of living fully. As that year has slipped away and now vanished, I am not sure I was aware enough, present enough, captive enough. I don't know to what degree it is even attainable. I saw some photographs recently of Steve this time last year, fresh from the hospital, dealing with a stint, not well and the tell being in his eyes. I look at him closely each day, as if trying to view with my naked eye his insides and assess his health. I want there to be enough. I want there to be more. Of everything.

And yet time mocks me, letting me know that will never be the case, that it is impossible, that I am only given this day, this moment, this breath, this thought, this second. My sweet sister-in-law Susan knew that fully. Battling cancer, faced with obstacles daily in limits that varied, she chose joy and emitted hope. Up to hours before her surgery, one that would take her life ultimately, she looked death in the eye and was courageous and without fear, letting her hospital staff know she was in the best hands, the hands of the Great Physician. I cannot really shake the calm calculating reality of her unquenchable faith, in what would be seen by many as her darkest hour. But, I can try to attain to it, to grasp it, to nurture it. 

As I navigate my days, I think of life from Susan's perspective. Not in a morbid way, but in a way that sees each day as a gift. I think, ironically, of the Disney movie "Cinderella", the live action one. I think not of the pumpkin to carriage, but I think of the long suffering Ella, sleeping on cinders, serving stepsisters, smiling with her companions, showing joy and happiness amidst it all. I think of the scene where her own mother tells her goodbye, of admonishing young Ella to "have courage and be kind." And I see that paradigm as the lens through which Susan lived her last year and a half. While she battled cancer, she chose daily to have courage and be kind. We are so thankful that the cancer did not claim victory over her. We grieve immensely over the misfortune of her aortic dissection, but choose joy in that breaking of her heart as claiming her life versus the poisoned cells inside her. I think that is why Susan could sign "I love you" and wave goodbye as she lay there intubated -- she knew cancer was not winning, but that she was winning.

I read this scripture the night of her viewing, searching for some distraction from the ever present visual, seeking some encouragement from a faith that spans four decades:
 "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." - Colossians 3:1-3
I have gone through my days following her death in the normal fashion: work, leisure, sleep, repeat. But my mind has not really stopped processing her passing. I think of her loved ones - my family - left behind daily, praying incessantly for our healing and peace, for the holes in daily lives to fill over with joy and warm memories. But I think mostly of her looking down the barrel of the shotgun she faced, and staring it down unflinchingly. I think of the courage it took for her to acknowledge the need to say goodbye, and to be okay in saying it. I think of the gift of her signing I love you over and over to her family, a final message that could stand the test of time, and give heart to those fainting under the weight of grief. Yes, her mind was on things above.

I do not mean to be all macabre on this eve of counting our blessings. I mean it more than anything to be a message of intense hope, a message of counting the greatest blessing of all - of being sure of your salvation, of being surrounded by those you love, of being alive and present in this moment. Even though my boys are not here, and I am not in my home, or actually a house, I am more grateful this year than in any other previous November. Our hope is not fixed on this earth, but on things above, and toward that end, I look for gratitude in life, for gratitude in all things.

I found this quote today and wanted to share it:
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend."  -- Melody Beattie
My hope for you this Thanksgiving is that no matter where you are, no matter what you eat, no matter who you are with, may this day be a season of intense gratitude in your life, a moment where you can see that all good things are from above, that love has been lavished on you, that our hope is eternal. May you have a day where you remember all that has been done for you, and reflect on the fullness of your life. May the coming year be one where you have acceptance, order, clarity...and where you can see the abundance in your life, the overflowing goodness.

This layout shows our last Thanksgiving spent at Murphy Manor. We didn't know at the time that it would be our last Thanksgiving there. And here's the deal - we never know our last anything. Never. Take in the richness of this moment, and savor the blessings of the season. Look around you and see - you, too, have overflowing goodness in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Be blessed.

Overflowing Goodness ~ Thanksgiving ~ November 2014

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation 
Paper: Basic Grey
Title Font: Rochester