Gratitude. I purposely chose not to write about it this year. Maybe it’s because I’m an “ugly American.” Maybe I’m just as entitled as kids these days. Or maybe when I look around it’s because so many are covering the subject so well.
My friend Jathan writes about how to give thanks for the bad things in your life.
My friend Anne writes about how to be thankful with a broken heart and satisfaction in “‘I’ll Never Be Satisfied?’ Here Are the Reasons You’re Wrong.'”
And so many others have graced the subject with care. I don’t feel the need. I feel the need to be grateful; I just don’t feel the need to write about it.
Less Than Grateful
As we pulled out the Christmas decorations this year, I finally found what I had been looking for. Several years had passed since I found it, and I was not immediately grateful. Actually, I was less than grateful. Finally, I found the ornament I thought was lost. It’s an angel that holds dates I despise. I didn’t know my husband hates the ornament as much as I long to find it. He buries it each year as soon as it is revealed, and I long to find it, to hold it, to remember. Most years, he’s quicker than I am, but not this year. This year I rubbed my fingers over the angel and remembered something.
My oldest daughter has often wondered why so many years are between her and her sister. Why did we wait so long to have baby No. 2? Baby No. 2, as we know her, isn’t baby No. 2 at all. She’s baby No. 6. One year, when I thought she was old enough to understand, I explained that it was because she already has more brothers and sisters in heaven than we will ever hold. Three have gone on before us. They are already in heaven waiting for us, and we’ll see them one day. When I saw the ornament this year I realized I had forgotten one.
There were four dates on the ornament tag. How could I forget? How could a mom forget her baby? My mind was racing. I told my daughter that there were three babies between her and her sister, and that was true, but the tag says four. Which one did I forget? The third? The fourth? 2008 was a rough year. We lost two that year.
Twice, in November, right around Thanksgiving we were in the hospital, losing lives we should have been celebrating. I remember one had normal chromosomes, and more than one doctor said we ought to be holding her. The others had a defect. Likely we would have held them minutes or hours. There weren’t just three, there were four babies we will never see. There’s no denying the dates. Each one is recorded in painstaking detail on that card. As I blinked back the tears, I broke. My oldest gave me a big bear hug from behind and said, “Oh, Mommy.” I told her I didn’t mean to forget. How does a mom forget? We wanted each one just as badly as we wanted her and her sister. She hugged me tighter.
Gratitude Through Perspective
I am not grateful for the pain or the loss. It still numbs me, yet I am grateful for a new perspective. Our youngest is about to celebrate her birthday. She was born in November. I remember that she was the high point after so much loss. For a variety of reasons after her birth, we would not have any more children. No more self-injected shots twice a day, no more wondering if we would make it to term this time. No more walking this road. No more holding our breath and walking on eggshells. Her birth meant that we could be thankful, grateful for life. Her breath of life means we can let go of the death that loomed over us.
We don’t forget the others, and we don’t need to worry about them. Like my husband said, “They’re already in heaven. The two that matter most are here with us.” For this, I am filled with gratitude.