In the summer of 1997, Shannon and I started keeping a Gratitude Journal. Oprah said it would change our lives...not that our lives were in need of change, but change is part of living and we weren't sure how to embrace the changes at hand.
Shannon graduated from college in 1997. Her life as an adult was about to unfold into a season of job searches and disappointments and dreams and uncertainty and Oprah's promise on August 7, sent us to Border's for our first "Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude".
August 7, 1997
"Thank you for this book. Thank you for the cat that was Riddle. Thank youf or the goofey, smiley Emmy. Thank you for Denise. Thank you for Fall and Spring. "
Most of us know how easy it is to be grateful when life is gentle. The challenge is continuing to see the gifts when life gets hard. For many of us this will be the first holiday season with an empty chair at the table.... or another empty chair. It's tempting to focus on what's missing....but then we miss what's not.
I gave my Mom a gratitude journal on Shannon's first Heaven day. She struggled. Not because she wasn't grateful, her heart was full of gratitude, but because she had trouble finding words to express that gratitude. She was grateful for bills paid, safe trips, children and grandchildren. She was grateful for her flowers and her home and food in the pantry. But like so many of us, the little things that seemed insignificant didn't make the journal, even though we know they made it to her heart.
Like me, She left more blank pages than filled. We get so busy. We miss so much of what matters because it slips between the cracks of what seems so urgent in the moment. We worry and fret about things that never happen, things that drain the life out of tuna on toast or fruitcake and coffee by the fire. Things that poke sharp points into an afternoon of soap bubbles and leaf leaping. Things that will never matter. Things so easily forgotten when the memories you have are the last you will make.
Shannon keeps trying to remind me, through the words from her last nine months, that I can plan, worry, fret, try to control, work to make the right decisions, have the best possible intentions... life will continue to smile at my efforts....but it is in the little things, the unplanned unseen unimaginable gifts life offers with that smile... that will keep my heart open when it feels so overwhelming.
November 18 - 22, 1997
"Thank you for job choices. Thank you for "creative' gift wrap. Thank you for Diet Coke. Thank you for things to look forward to. Thank you for sleep. Thank you for the Belk job. Thank you for not too many hours. Thank you for being. Thank you for time. Thank you for pants getting looser. Thank you for things working out the way they're suppose to. Thank you for Thanksgiving. Thank you for Christmas. Thank you for a New Year. Thank you for time to breathe. Thank you for looking nice. Thank you for a good dinner. Thank you for burns that go away. Thank you for a good work night. Thank you for opportunities continuing. Thank you for Christmas movies. Thank you for time to do what I want. Thank you for pimento cheese. Thank you for no rain to have to drive in."
She got it, and I keep trying.
It makes missing Mom gentler, imagining that she is having Thanksgiving dinner with the ones she loves, that she has missed so much. She will laugh with Shannon over burning the rolls. Maw Maw will teach them to make Shrimp Glace'. They will laugh and love and share memories and watch over us knowing that we will also laugh and love and share memories while trying not to burn the rolls.
I don't say it often enough... or well enough, but I am incredibly grateful for all of you. My friends from near and far, my Angel Moms, my precious family... you fill the cracks of my heart with your love and laughter and memories both old and in the making. Thank you for always being there. Thank you for opening your hearts and letting us in. Thank you for being human right along with me, even when it hurts.
Every day is a day of thanks giving but tomorrow we will slow down and breathe it in before we move back into the craziness of our holiday season. Know that each of you blesses my life in ways you may never know.
Thank you for a turkey that will thaw in time.
Thank you for time for families to reflect and to dream.
Thank you for the promise of sunlight and safe travels.
Thank you for the new faces at our table and the love of the ones we will miss.
Thank you for the comfort of knowing that love transcends time and space and distance and even when our eyes can't see, our hearts have no doubt.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.