Monday, October 5, 2009

Living in Gratitude

On Thursday evening, September 24, at about 7:40 PM, my cell phone rang. As soon as I heard my brother's voice, I knew what the call was about. Through choked tears he said, "Dad just passed away." Several of our family members from North Carolina were able to make the trip to Texas and there we joined with other family and friends. We reminisced with laughter and tears about his life and his remarkably engaging presence in our midst. Monday morning, on a cool, windy West Texas day, we placed him beside my mother who had died 13 years before.

We started the return trip home only to receive a phone call from our oldest son saying that his newly born son, Zac, was back in the hospital for a second time and that the situation was looking grim. Though it was painful, our family could understand bearing my father, who was 88 years of age, to his grave. To even consider the possibility of our son and his family having to bear their child to his grave was more than we could even fathom. We continued to drive the distance toward the airport, trying to decide if we should come home or head to San Diego. The drive took several hours and our son called again to say that there was slight improvement. The shorter form of this account is that our grandson did improve steadily, has now returned home from the hospital, and is doing much better.

It was a difficult week. But everyone has difficult weeks. Suffering is our lot in life. We had a close call with our grandson. Others have had the close call and it ended in deep and abiding pain. Couple all of what we face with what we see in the world around us on most days and it would be easy to turn cynical, embittered, pessimistic, and defeated.

But we must not. When I am hurting, usually it is for a season. Perhaps the wound is so deep that I will carry the scar forever. In those moments, I may forget that most days life is good, there is purpose and meaning, I am loved, and I, in turn, can love someone else. As I age, I realize more and more that attitude is preeminent in how we face life. If we want to turn as described above, there will be many opportunities to motivate us in that direction. But if in the darkness, we can still find that for which to be grateful, perhaps we have a chance.

For our family, there has been an outpouring of support and encouragement. Today, I still feel the heaviness of sad grief. Tomorrow, maybe it will be a little better. Regardless...I am grateful.

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