Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving - More than Turkey and Football

The holidays are a time for family, and this year, my family will be forever altered with the absence of my mom this Thanksgiving holiday. I've missed many Thanksgivings with my family while in Colorado, and today, twinges of regret come up that I didn't make more of them. But then I remember the many wonderful Thanksgivings I've spent with families of close friends, co-workers and even acquaintances that opened their home upon learning I had no plans for the holiday. I've had the pleasure of serving others who have no means to enjoy the luxury of Thanksgiving dinner, much less a family or a place to call home. In remembering these times I was without my family, I remember how I contributed, and allowed others to contribute to the magnificence of my journey.

I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir when I say that Thanksgiving is more than football, parades and turkey dinner. But I know that many miss the simplest of blessings to count. We have all, at some point in our life, done the standard expression of thanks that includes our family, our loved ones, having a job, and our health. But I challenge EVERYONE to take their blessings to a deeper level, to things that you may naturally overlook and even take for granted. Give thanks for the ability to breathe easy, walk on your own two legs, and the hands that carve your turkey. Express gratitude for the roof over your head, no matter what that looks like, for you are safe from the elements of winter weather. Give thanks for employment, regardless of how irritating your co-workers are, what grievances you have with the "powers that be;" give thanks for an income and health benefits (no matter what that looks like!!) that support your efforts to provide for your family, your well-being, and your financial needs. For those of us who are unemployed, give thanks for unemployment benefits that support us, even nominally in transition; say thank you for the part-time job, no matter what it is, and know your efforts in that help others, somehow, some way, even if it's asking "would you like fries with that?" Give thanks for those who ask you, "would you like fries with that." Express appreciation for the opportunities to figure out what's next, the support of loved ones during these times of transition, for their prayers, words of encouragement and unconditional love. Give thanks that you live in a country where you have the freedom of speech, even if it's considered misguided or disagreed with by others. Give thanks for men and women who sacrifice time with their own family to serve our country in the name of freedom. Be grateful for a government that doesn't take you jail when you speak out against it. Express gratitude for a working vehicle, running water, and working toilet. Say "thank you" for the smiling children, the unconditional love of pets, and the beauty of nature around us. Give thanks for all that you've experienced, and the learning and growth opportunities, and the ability to choose an open willing mind and heart to make changes that serve you better, despite current circumstances that seem unfair, unjust, and uncomfortable.

You get the point; dig deeper to express gratitude for the many, many things we take for granted. Dig deep within your heart; see beyond the obvious for those blessings, large and small, grand and simple. And give thanks daily, not just on Thanksgiving. For with expression of gratitude, we invite more blessings into our life. Our expression signals to God our willingness to have more abundance, our willingness to receive it.

This year, I have so much to give thanks for, despite the trials and tribulations this journey has offered. I give thanks to the many, many, many people who have said a prayer, sent emails, and love and light in support of me and my family around my mother's illness and death; you know who you are. I count my blessings in the challenges that have left me reeling, and the opportunities they afford me through the closing of so many doors. I'm grateful for the love I feel, the love I receive, and the means to manage these transitions I am experiencing. I give thanks that I was able to help my mom feel more comfortable, brighten her final days, and the honor to support her in her crossing over. I give gratitude for that Spirit within me that is God Expression. My love to you and yours, and many more blessings to feel grateful for in the coming year.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today would’ve been my mom’s 70th birthday. I knew today may be touch and go for me emotionally. I met my dad and we enjoyed lunch at one of her favorite restaurants, per his suggestion. Then we went to the cemetery to pay our respects, honor her and wish her a happy birthday. And shortly, I will be attending my first grief support meeting; why? In part to know I’m not going crazy when I have these grief-filled burps of emotion, and to better understand the process and to connect with others who are also moving through it.

Do you remember the scene in movie The Princess Bride when Westley and Buttercup are moving through the Fire Swamp? During their journey, unexpected spurts of fire would burst up from the ground, out of nowhere. I’m finding that grief is like a journey through the fire swamp with unexpected hits of emotion that come quite suddenly and strongly. It is an edginess that lowers my patience, or increases my irritability and defensiveness over the silliest things. It's a power surge that drains my joy, and a geyser of emotion bubbling up and pouring forth as tears. These blindsides of grief leave me feeling off balance and out of sorts; just not myself.

In these four months following my mother’s passing, we are moving through birthdays (both my dad’s and mom’s), my parent’s anniversary, and two major holidays. These are the “big ones” I’ve heard others who have lost loved ones describe as the most challenging. Is it a blessing to go through these “big ones” so quickly and in such a short amount of time or a curse?

I choose to consider it a blessing – for me personally, it allows me to “lean into it.” “It” meaning the grief, while I have the time and space in which to adjust to the absence of my mom in my life, to heal and purge all the emotion I feel around it. Perhaps then I can move forward, cleansed and more light-hearted. I’m not naïve enough to believe that my grieving will be complete after the first four months but it is my hope that it will not nearly as intense as it has felt the last two months. Time will only tell.

I’ve been told that the first year after the loss of the loved one is the hardest. With each 3rd of the month that passes, I give thanks for one more month behind the loss, counting how many are left in that “first year.” However, I don’t think I’ll ever get over wanting to hold my mom’s hand, exchange mother-daughter hugs and kisses, pick up the phone to talk about our respective days, share confidences, and just gab for the sake of gabbing. And I guess in a way, I don’t want to get over wanting those things with my mom, for I wonder that if I do, am I shifting into having taken it all for granted? I don’t know the answer, and intuitively, I don’t think so. But I do know I feel her constantly around me; she’s visited a couple of times in my dreams, and converses with me often. So, I will adjust to just being with her in this different way, and know that whatever I need moving forward as a motherless child, I can find with the love and support of my friends and family who are mothers of their own children.