Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Grateful

I was in Target a few months ago, repeating the much-needed mantra, "You do not need new throw pillows. You do not need new throw pillows." I was there for groceries and toilet paper, but of course I had to check out the fall home decor section they were in the process of setting up.

As I pushed my cart past the cozy plaid blankets and metallic gourds, something caught my eye-- a throw pillow of course. It was off white with one word written on it in lovely gold script:

Grateful

I didn't buy it, but I did notice what I was feeling as I read the word. A rush of gratitude for all that I'd been given in life. Gratitude for life itself. There was no asterisk in my thoughts, no bitter coda, and that, in itself seemed notable to me.


It was NOT:

Grateful, except for the part where my mom dies far too young.

Grateful, except for the loss of an amazing son whom the world needed, and I still NEED.

Grateful, except for big and small disappointments, disillusionments, slights and betrayals.

Grateful, except for a sense that I want to do more to follow God's call on my life, yet I feel lazy and stuck.


Just grateful.

This would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

I remember the horrible first Thanksgiving just a few tortured weeks after Jack's death. When I passed our striped Thankfulness Notebook around the table, I wondered what the hell I would put in it. My sister looked similarly lost. She finally settled on being thankful for modern transportation so that we could be together during hard times.

These years later, I don't want to put on a false smile and act as if everything is okay. I don't want to imply that I don't feel sad often and bitter sometimes. Jack is dead, I'm 46 and pregnant, pretty much everything irritates me on some level, my body and my heart hurt, and this is not the life I wanted.

But oh, the GRATITUDE!

It seeps in unbidden. It travels on memories of a brother and sister playing together in their own little world. Of friends who chose the hard path and kept showing up. Of a God who paints the leaves the most brilliant yellows and reds. Of a looking outward at others who may need an infusion of HOPE. Of new life growing inside of me. Of day lilies ready to be planted today to surprise us anew next summer.

I don't want anyone telling me to be grateful, and I'm guessing you don't either. But oh how wonderful it feels when gratitude comes!

27 comments:

One crazed mommy said...

I've been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. It's been a little difficult, given that I was just informed last Friday that my job is being eliminated as of December 7th. I'm disappointed, a little angry - heck, I've been here for 13 years, so it's a hard pill to swallow, especially right before the holidays - but it was an order that is sweeping across many locations within our corporate business - our site is not the only one effected. But...I look at all of the support I have had from my immediate co-workers. So many offers of "I know someone in HR at..." or "Here is the business card of my friend...I will recommend you personally". The list goes on and on. While I know my skills will find me something, potentially with a shorter commute and better benefits, I am sad...but I also have never felt such gratitude towards those who have wrapped their arms around me and shown me love during this past week. I work in a manufacturing plant (Human Resources) for a large corporation - it really made me feel appreciated when the plant workers from the floor were coming in after they heard the news just to give me a hug and tell me how much they were going to miss me. That is special - no matter what lies next for me, I know that what I did made a difference to someone - there is no better gratitude than that. :)

Japolina said...

I really like this post. Sometimes it is hard but there is always something to be grateful for.

Laura said...

This is lovely, Anna. I'm always grateful when I see that you have posted more of your beautiful words.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Beautiful post Anna. Thank you for sharing your heart.

Anonymous said...

Your writing has reached a new level of insightfulness and beauty. Everything you have experienced, the tragedy, the grief, the unexpected graces, is coming through your fingertips in the most amazing way. You wear a unique pair of glasses in this life, and through your writing, you let everyone see what your imperfect world looks like in the most spectacular fashion. Jack, Margaret and this new life are so lucky to have you as their mother, someone who has been served the very worst that life can offer but still strives to see beauty and grace. That is all anyone can do. Keep writing Anna, I definitely see another book in your future. I look forward to reading it.

Claire Plante said...

Anna - to your last line, I agree! Most of us (including me) don't want to be told to be grateful.

But gratitude is infectious, I think, just as joy and compassion and politeness are infectious. By sharing your gratitude, and acknowledging the mystery of it (it just seems to come at times - it is a gift), you inspire a similar feeling in me.

Thank you! I'm so grateful for you, and your writing, and for knowing you!

Love,
Claire

Chris Carter said...


Reading this makes me so happy. In the deepest parts of my heart- happy.

I know it was a moment- and there must be other moments that aren't as clear. But sharing THIS moment is beautiful.

I continue to pray for you... Always will.

Burdine Family said...

Just beautiful. Thank you.

Burdine Family said...

Just Beautiful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and so well said. I too have noticed the brilliant yellows and reds. Grateful for gratitude :-)

Anonymous said...

So beautiful, Anna. Thank you.

kimberwidmer.com said...

Tears of gratitude along with you, friend. My cup overflows, even in the hard, dark places.

Joyce said...

So beautiful! xo

Kim said...

So glad that you can feel gratitude! A good message to us all. Knowing that even with such tragedy, life can go on and we can feel gratitude again.

juli said...

I love the idea of gratitude "traveling on memories". Very powerful. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Theresa Otley said...

Loved your post. Many days it is so hard to be grateful. But in the end , if we try, we can find quite a few I suppose each day...And just for the record....we are all grateful for you. Through all these years you have showed us your strength and what an amazing woman/mom/friend/wife/ sister thst you are. And will continue to be. Go back and get the pillow....it will look awesome on your glider or in the crib in the nursery. Because wow.....what a wonderful , amazing , blessed GRATEFUL moment it will be when you become a mom again!!!!

Amy said...

Today I was thinking of you and your family, Anna. And I came to your blog and read your news, which has tears down my cheeks. Your writing is so beautiful. There is no doubt for me that your boy and God are in cahoots! I don't know that I've ever seen that clear manifestation of love and grace before in my life. I will be keeping you and your family in my thoughts. I am so very happy for you all.

Unknown said...

Anna, I am grateful for your raw honesty, beautifully written. We live in the pretending world and I have never been able to be part of that. I appreciate how you lead this way, although is not what you want. You are making an impact in people's life. I am sure Jack is proud of you.

Anonymous said...

Anna, I am grateful for your raw honesty, beautifully written. We live in a pretending world, and I have never been able to be part of. I appreciate how you lead people's life that way, although it is not what you want, but deeply know is what have been given to you. Only very special hearts can take that job, Jack has to be proud of you.

Arnebya Herndon said...

Sometimes I forget. I forget the goodness in my life and concentrate on the stuckness, the tireness, the unhappy bits. You're right; I don't want people to say something trite like you have so much to be grateful for. But, when gratitude slaps at me, and I realize I AM feeling it, I do know that I am, it's more intense. I'm glad that pillow whispered to you.

retrogirlandthechemokid.com said...

I'm working on a post about gratitude for 1000 voices for Compassion this month (and by working on I mean so far only rhinking about) and this one absolutely resonates with me. Yes, not every day, but many days.

Anonymous said...

Bawling.

Andrea Mowery said...

"Grateful, but.." sure takes the power away, doesn't it? So glad you are able to be truly grateful. I think most people would add a condition, and that you haven't shows a peace, growth, and maturity that we all (I) should strive for.

Jamie@southmainmuse said...

What a wonderfully authentic message of hope. Peace and gratitude. I wish I could swim in a vat of it.

Thoughts for the day said...

I love your honesty, sometimes we just can't get into the groove of being thankful, grateful or even happy. This too will pass and at the end of this journey, when you hold your new baby, it will be all that you will need for that day.
For a small season. You will always miss those you love and who have left too early. Always. That is why love is so hard. We hurt and grieve and ask why, only to do again the next day.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Powerful truth.

julie gardner said...

Today I am grateful for your words.