Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Thankful Book

I thought I would share one of our family’s Thanksgiving traditions with you. We travel every Thanksgiving, and I wanted a way to document some of the things we were thankful for, but I didn’t want to cart around anything bulky on our road trips. In 2007 I ran across a little book at The One Spot in Target. I threw it in my purse and carried it around for a full week, knowing that if I took it out, I’d most certainly forget to pack it for Thanksgiving.

This will be the 7th year we will pass the little book around the table at my aunt’s house and each write something in it we are thankful for. Each year that I’ve remembered to bring it has been a little Thanksgiving miracle in itself. But I’m so glad I did, especially since our son Jack is no longer here to write in the book.

Two and a half months after the accident, we were faced with our first Thanksgiving without him. We brought out the little striped book, realizing that although we still had things to be thankful for, our loss was so enormous, so painful, so staggering, that we had to dig really deep to even sit at the table with his empty chair, let alone write in the book. My sister, Liz, wrote the only thing she could muster up that day, being thankful for “modern transportation” so we could be together in our grief.

We laughed and cried as we looked back over Jack’s entries, as each year he spelled it “thankfull” instead of thankful. I saw the years he was “thankfull” for Legos, and family, and even ‘dough,’ a little joke he started making when he was in kindergarten. Jack was quirky. He rarely had an answer you would expect. I asked him why he had said dough. Was he talking about money, a la the Welcome Back Kotter era? No, the kid was really just thankful for dough-- you know, the kind they hand out to play with at Italian restaurants while you wait. Ok. Then there was the year he was thankful for Prester John, a legendary Christian King from the 12th Century whom none of us had ever heard of. Quirky, right?

I treasure the little book, and love looking back over it.

The entries aren’t long and detailed. On year my nephew just wrote, “you people” as his contribution. Last year our daughter Margaret wrote, “I’m thankful for Shadow (our dog), family, cousins, grammar, and a house/food.”

This Thanksgiving, two years after our horrible loss, I am able to consider many more things that I’m thankful for, including the inexplicable joy that creeps into our days as I realize that 12 short years mothering my son were preferable to a lifetime of never knowing him at all. I am thankful I am able to breathe more easily and see the years in front of me not as a bleak, miserable life sentence, but as a time for more memories to be made and more growth to come as time marches me closer to being with him once again.

When I was getting out the Thanksgiving book this year, I saw a craft Jack had made in school. And I was grateful for whichever teacher or room mother forced him to do it. You know, the good old, ‘trace your hand and turn it into a turkey’ craft where you write down things you are thankful for? It says,


Dear Mom and Dad

Thank you for:

            Being great parents,

            Taking care of me,

            Loving me forever.


I think the word choice is perfect, because that’s how it is, isn’t it? Even though times will change and certain cherished ones no longer sit in the chairs around the table, our love for them never ends. It truly is forever.


Happy Thanksgiving.




Anonymous said...

Lovely, Anna. As I face another Thanksgiving with no baby, I am reminded, gently, that I have many, many things in my life for which to be grateful. Even if I never can have a baby, that won't change.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely tradition. I'm thankful for learning about Jack through your beautiful words. Thank you for sharing him on your blog. Love to you and your family on Thanksgiving and always.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely tradition. I'm thankful for learning about Jack through your beautiful words. Thank you for sharing him on your blog. Love to you and your family on Thanksgiving and always.

IrishRN07 said...

I am thankful for the blessing that your writing, your sweet family and powerful faith has been in my life. Cheers, Anna. And many more wonderful holidays to come for you and yours. xoxo -Maureen

Anonymous said...

Maybe the joy is inexplicable, but you've also worked very hard to lean into the pain. I can only imagine how hard it was last year, and it shows how far you've come that you're breathing easier, and the years ahead don't feel oppressive anymore. Your courage gives me, and all your readers, hope and strength.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Susie - Walking Butterfly said...

What a great tradition, more meaningful than just saying it. And now you have the memories with you always.
Happy Holiday season lovely lady, Susie

Anonymous said...

What a great idea..."The Thankful Book"! And I love hearing how Jack continues to play a part in so many ways. Just LOVED his little turkey hand print...I remember my children doing those in school! Among all my blessings, I am thankful to have found this "spot" and thankful that you are starting to feel joy again, breathing easier, and finding makes my heart smile. I hope you and your family had a good day. Hugs.

mom2ndndncrs said...

Thank you for sharing your story with the rest of us:). July 5th, 2013, one of my daughter's tumble coaches was involved in an accident while driving his motorcycle, and God called one of his angels back home. He left a huge hole in so many of our hearts and even more so in the hearts of the atheletes, like my daughter, whom he coached. What drew me into reading your blog was your mentioning the pain you were experiencing and at the same time, trying to find a voice to still find the blessings God continued to bestow on you, even in the midst of such tradgedy.

I am hoping to gain some insight from your past and how your incredible family was able to navigate through the past 2 yrs. Even as the rest of us struggle with getting through this holiday season, I know what we feel doesn't even hold a candle to everything his mother is experiencing, especially since he was her only child. I was really impressed that you could voice your love, appreciation, and still hold the positive attitude that even though it was a short period time, you will always be greatful and much rather prefer that God did loan your son to you, no matter the length of time, than to have never gotten to experience his love, spirit, and joy!

Again, thank you for allowing strangers to share in your story and the joys from your son. If you have any ideas or words of advice that I can share with our grieving mom, as she is in a dailey battle to not slide back into the very dark place that she has fought to be able to get out of.

Rach said...

I'm always thankful for the six years I had with Hannah. Always. What a beautiful tradition, Anna.

And, I really love Jack's spelling of "thankfull". He was truly full of thanks. :o)

Happy Thanksgiving. :o)


Alison said...

I love your thankful book - what a lovely idea.

I can't imagine how hard it must be for you, Anna, but I always admire your grace in the face of pain and grief. You are a shining star. xo

Stephanie D said...

Anna - you amaze me and I'm always in awe of your strength.

Michelle said...

You don't know how glad it makes me to hear that you're breathing easier and able to look forward with hope. Sending a lot of love to you Anna.

Kathy at kissing the frog said...

This is a precious gift. It's funny how the Universe makes things happen that we will need someday. xoxo

Princess Kate said...

Beautiful and perfectly written again. Blessings Anna.

Laura Garwood Meehan said...

Thank you for sharing your story and your son. There is healing in sharing, and there's healing for others in hearing stories like theirs. I was lucky enough not to actually lose my son when he was born with a deadly infection, but I still had to go through my own healing process. I hope you keep moving toward feeling and healing.

Jamie Miles said...

"I am thankful I am able to breathe more easily and see the years in front of me not as a bleak, miserable life sentence, but as a time for more memories" What a powerful, hopeful thought. A glimpse of hope for those experiencing devastaging lost. This post is such beautiful message for any time of the year but especially Thanksgiving.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

What a touching post. "Loving me forever" really got to me. I remember when Bill Cosby lost his son years ago and he said he was thankful for the years he got to have with him. ((HUGS))

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to the person who longs for a baby. That can't be easy, especially in a season that we're "supposed to" celebrate. I hope she will treat herself with kindness.

claire plante said...

What a beautiful piece to read on Thanksgiving. Thank you for sharing your hope and love with us.

Every time I read that you are able to laugh, or feel a sense of hope and creating memories, I am so happy.


Kate Coveny Hood said...

This is the kind of thing that people always say they want to do - but never actually do it. What a beautiful tradition. Before. After. Forever.

Four in Costa Rica said...

Oh Margaret, I too am thankful for grammar! :)

Anna, thank you for sharing your message of love and hope with us. It resonates with so many who are hurting for a multitude of reasons.

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

Cynthia said...

Love love love!!!

Sharon said...

I am thankful for you and your generous and loving spirit.

Anonymous said...

I love this idea. I'm so glad you do it and that you share it. Even more glad to hear that your heart continues to heal.


Unknown said...

What a lovely tradition. Once again, you've reminded me of what's important and I thank you for that.

Much love.

Stephanie said...

Anna, that post made my heart feel good.

Thank you.

Kim P. said...

I am so very thankful that you continue to write and share your life with us. All of it....the good, the bad and the ugly. Thank you for being you and always putting your heart on the line so that we continue to learn and grow from your beautiful words. Hugs from Purcellville.