“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” – Meister Eckhart
A funny thing has happened over the past month – the emotion that I am feeling most is not grief; it is gratitude. Sure, there are times of longing and tears, moments of sadness and missing, but they are outweighed – vastly outweighed – by the unbelievable amount of gratitude that has filled our hearts and house over the past few weeks. The outpouring of support from family and friends, the community, even the complete strangers at the Social Security office or the credit card call-line operator on the other side of the world, has simply been amazing. We are all just in awe, empowered, energized, and mostly, just grateful for the sharing.
Beautiful homemade meals delivered after a long day at work, a box of schools supplies on the front porch anonymously, incredibly generous offers to take the boys to Kennywood and the movies and Pirates game and Steeler training camp and sleepovers or just over to a friends house so dad can get a little nap, folks helping with the dishes and laundry or mopping the floor, offering rides when we don’t have one, a nice message or sharing a photo on Facebook, co-workers and bosses picking up my workload and offering vacation time, a phone call or email or text just to say hi, sharing a song or a favorite book, words of comfort or just a much needed hug – the outpouring has just been humbling.
It has made me reflect on how deeply Deb touched everyone, and I believe it was because she gave so freely and joyously to everyone she met, without expecting anything in return. It gave her life meaning.
Earlier this year I went through some extremely trying events that at the time I considered very unfortunate. One of the by-products of these events was that I re-discovered the power of gratitude, of being grateful for all the good things I have even when life is testing me, grateful for all the little things like a cool summer rain on a hot humid day, the insects buzzing at night, the smile of a stranger. I got into the habit of starting each day with a gratitude prayer or just a simple silent meditation in my grotto, a time to be still and ask for grace before embarking on the daily tasks in front of me. It is a very powerful tool, and has helped me tremendously during these trying times.
A grateful person is a powerful person, for gratitude generates power. All abundance is based on being grateful for what we have. True power, happiness, and well-being are found in the fine art of gratitude – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Life Lessons
Debbie knew this power her whole life, and she lived it for many many years; how lucky she was to recognize the joy of every day, of every breath, of laughter and love! That’s where her smile and grace came from, even when times were tough.
So although grief is supposed to be the overriding emotion at times like these, it seems to me that gratitude is the flip side of grief. How can this be?
For this answer I found a wonderful sermon by the Reverend J. Michael A. Wright of the Grace Church in Charleston, SC:
“Have you lost someone recently? Do you find yourself deep in grief? This is not all bad. You are grieving because you have loved. Your tears are rooted in a life that was good with your partner, mother, father, sister, brother, friend. Your grief is a visible sign of a deep and abiding love. Well done! And rooted in all that you feel, difficult though this may be, is a thankful heart. Thanks be to God, you have begun to work through your grief. It is rooted in gratitude and unpacked in love.
Grief is rooted in the good life that was ours, lived out along side our loved one. We grieve not because our lives were bad, but because they were so very good. Our loved ones’ passing hurts so because life with them was good. Grief, rooted in gratitude. We give thanks even as we admit that we wanted more.”
So may this simple prayer let you know how much we appreciate your thoughts and prayers, your kind words and deeds, your just being there to talk or pick up the kids or bring a meal or share a beer, for all the kindness you intended – “Thank you”.
“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” – Thornton Wilder