Last week, I read a post on Beverly Diehl’s blog addressing the word “gratitude.” You can read her entry here: www.writinginflow.blogspot.com Beverly’s writing really enabled me to look past some recent events in my life (mostly to do with relationships within my family) and reflect about the impeccable gifts God and the Universe have kindly bestowed upon me instead.
Around this time last year, as my family was preparing for Thanksgiving, I was preparing a eulogy for my love…my soul mate…my everything…my mother. On Thanksgiving day, my mom was rushed to the hospital due to complications of a decaying liver. It had failed on her just one year prior to Thanksgiving in November, 2011. The doctors had given her one year to live because once the liver fails, there is no medicine nor holistic healing that can reverse or cure it. Liver failure ultimately leads to death unless a new liver can be provided by an organ donator.
My mother ordered my sisters and me to not come to the hospital on that frigidly cold and untimely holiday. Even in her most lonesome and dreaded hours, she would have sacrificed more time spent with us for our own personal pleasures and obligations. As much as we fought with her to spend mere moments in the hospital by her side, she insisted that we enjoy our Thanksgiving with my step-father, Daddy P. My 84-year old grandmother, however, did not budge. She held her daughter as a mother would hold their infant child in her arms while the hands of time crept slowly over the hospital windows. My mother’s condition made it seem like she was an infant again; unable to speak in full sentences, go to the bathroom on her own, and think cognitive thoughts because of the toxins infiltrating her head. Since her liver had deteriorated so badly, it was hard to understand even the simplest gestures she tried to convey to my grandmother and the nurses that day.
I remember sitting there in the family room of Daddy P’s house and looking around at everyone. Some were laughing and exchanging stories with each other while others were glued to the television watching an array of Christmas movies. I started to reminisce about all of the irreplaceable memories I had of my mother and my step-father growing up. They always seemed to make the holidays unforgettable for us and moments like this were kindred remembrances of the way things used to be before my mom had started drinking. Life wasn’t perfect but there was always something beautiful and meaningful about my childhood. During the holidays, I’ve learned to let go of the dark and horrible past and instead, be grateful for the wonderful times we did share as well as the future ahead.
But it was also during this time that I had started to write a eulogy for my mother. I still have it filed away in one of my notebooks right next to my desk. This tribute was an epic story about my mom and all of the love and adoration her life and her kind heart always intended to give to others. I wrote the eulogy to serve as a dedication to my mother and everything that made her such an inspiration to me; both as a child and woman today. I wanted it to be a constant reminder to everyone she didn’t just consume alcohol but alcohol consumed her. It provided an escape for her and unfortunately, her tired and beaten soul wasn’t strong enough to fight back and shake the demons off of her shoulders.I mentioned this before in one of my posts about a stereotype in which alcoholics are mean, self-serving and filled with hatred and unkindness. Although sometimes, this can be true (I know because I have seen it in others), my mother was nothing like this. She was always trying to please others by putting her needs aside. My mom was the type of person who would literally give the last dime in her wallet to purchase things we needed for school or after school activities, even if it meant she would be broke. My friends have always adored her because they have seen the good in her which was only numbed by her alcohol consumption. There were times when she would “change” into a different persona when her drinking exceeded well passed a quart of vodka. But when it came down to it, she would have died for my sisters and me and given anything to make sure her family would always be taken care of.
After Thanksgiving passed, Christmas quickly came and my mother was very sick during this time. She could barely walk on her own but somehow, her will to spend one last holiday with us overcame the odds of her being in the hospital for one last time. She looked like a zombie, unable to hold a conversation and so yellow, she could have dressed up as a banana for Halloween. Her belly was extremely bloated and appeared as though she was going to give birth to triplets. My mom was also so horribly ill on Christmas that ultimately, she had to be rushed to the hospital the very next day.
This was my mother on Christmas Day, 2012
You can see how decrepitly far from normal her appearance looked.
I didn’t see the following epiphany back then but it resonates throughout me now. My mother was granted two wishes last year: one; to be with her loved ones for a final time on her most beloved holiday of the year and two; the miracle liver transplant she would need to spend many more holidays here, with all of us.When I read Beverly’s post and took out the eulogy and started reading it to myself, gratitude came banging down my incredulous walls. After pondering and bickering to myself about what was lacking in my relationship with both my biological and step-fathers, I quickly mustarded up the fortitude my heart always contained but recently, forgotten. Why was I so caught up on people who obviously weren’t as caught up on me when I had an amazing gift right here, bubbling all around my body? The gift of gratitude was something I never asked for so I simply overlooked this eternal power of praise and glory. It was literally shining through my windows with every speck of sunlight and view of a sky full of time which was handed down to me from the grace of God.
There are so many things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving. First and foremost, having my mother here with me for however much more time God is willing to share her is invaluable. Even though she has some complications and a prognosis that doesn’t seem promising, God seems to have his healing hands laid kindly upon her. None of us know when our time will come but until then, let’s be thankful for the things we do have instead of beating ourselves up over the things we have no control over.
I won’t list every single thing I am appreciative for within this post. I’m going to save those for my grateful jar; thanks Beverly! I will, however, say this… speaking to others whether they are children when I’m visiting schools or helping to spread awareness to adults about the disease that almost killed my mother have been two gifts which I am proud to say I am grateful for. I am so excited my mother will not be spending another Thanksgiving in the E.R. or Christmas week in a hospital bed, waiting for another liver transplant. I’m happy to say that life isn’t so bad and thank you Jesus for blessing mine with the beautiful people in it as well as the wonderful ones I am so lucky to meet here.
This is my mother now.
How do you feel about the word “gratitude.” Is there anything you are grateful for? How has your attitude changed over the years when thinking about the things you should always be thankful for?