Gratitude from Grief

November. The official month of thankfulness. The promise of savoring sacred family recipes always serves as a cue to be mindful of my blessings. And a number of Facebook friends are posting things large and small for which they are thankful, one for every day this month. But yesterday something happened. Something that was like a bullhorn screaming at me to pay attention to all that is good in my life. Something that I wish had never happened, and would never happen again…to anyone.

angel child comforting mother
A powerful photo my friend posted on her Facebook page.

Yesterday, our friends Justin and Angie lost their four-year-old son Chase. Months ago, Chase contracted E.coli, which developed into something called HUS. It ravaged his poor little body. For a time, despite all that had happened, a miracle drug seemed to be giving his family and doctors hope for recovery. But his progress was short-lived, and soon there was nothing more the doctors could do. After a few weeks of being kept comfortable, Chase surrendered to his final rest. And now Justin and Angie must live in a world without him, after knowing how beautiful the world was with him.

It’s not fair. It’s not right. Pure and simple.

Being a parent, I can not help but try to imagine what this must be like for them. But I know anything I imagine can not possibly come close to the reality they are experiencing. My heart breaks for them, for Chase, who was robbed of his chance to live a full life, and for his five-year-old brother, who is way too young to have to deal with so much grief. The weight of all of that will sometimes envelop me. But then the relieving moment comes, like when you wake up from a bad dream, when you realize all is right in your own reality. And within my sadness for my friends, I find my ability to be thankful for my own blessings.

I am thankful that my two children are sleeping soundly in their beds. That I can kiss them and hug them. That we can read books together and I can watch them play in the backyard. Even that they can whine and pout and thoroughly annoy me, because that means that they are HERE…with me.

I must be honest in saying there is a pang of guilt in this, as if feeling this way is somehow an insult to my friends. But then I think the greater tragedy would be to have witnessed their tremendous loss and NOT find more reasons to be grateful with what I have, for however long I have it. Because the fact of the matter is, we just don’t know what our lives have in store for us. We can hope, we can pray, we can plan. But Justin and Angie did all those things, and I am certain that what they are going through right now was never on their lists of hopes, prayers, or plans.

So I am going to love as fully as I can. I am going to kiss my kids even when they don’t want me to. I am going to read them one more page before bedtime. I am going to remember what is truly important. I am going to realize the next time the kids ruin something in the house that I am lucky to have them, not whatever was ruined. I am going to listen when they laugh. And I am not going to wait until Thanksgiving to be thankful.

Rest in peace, little Chase. You gave your parents a lot to be thankful for.

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