As a new bride, I even wrote all of my Thank You notes while on our honeymoon. And, yes, Mom's note was the very first I wrote!
After her death, I found that she had saved every Thank You card that her children and grandchildren had written to her.
Mom had a way of making my November birthday special in her simple, loving manner. Every seven years, we even celebrated my special day on Thanksgiving Thursday. Since Mom's death in May, 2010, Thanksgiving has been bittersweet for me.
However, her wise life lessons will last my lifetime. At times, I can hear Mom in the very words that come out of my mouth.
To even begin to think about Gratitude, I would have to start with Mom. I am greatly blessed to have had the love, wisdom and support of my Momma for 48 years of my life.
Children were the focus of Mom's world. She sacrificed greatly so that all of us could have a firm and loving foundation.
Gratitude is the memory of the heart.
Constellation of the Heart
I remember Mom telling me many times about the simplicity and happiness of her childhood. This was due, in part, to her family's modest finances in rural Georgia, yet I think mostly due to the values and decency of her family.
For the holidays, Mom and her four sisters got small gifts from the heart like fruit, candy, perhaps one doll or toy. Yet, her face radiated peacefulness and smiles, as she told me of these childhood memories.
I learned early in life that giving felt so much better than receiving. I always felt blessed to have had 'enough'.
I became even more grateful for my blessings in 2009 - 2010, when I worked with the homeless population.
In the summer of 2010, after Mom died, I felt like Santa Claus. Every day I would bring in a cooler of food or countless items from Mom's home for the clients. I totally grasped why Mom gave much more than she ever got in life. And it felt right the I kept her legacy alive through helping so many who do not have 'enough'.
A Story from Mom's Library
The following story is powerful to me. It demonstrates my perspective on gratitude and graceful acceptance of life, however it turns out when circumstances are beyond your control.
"Welcome to Holland" by Emily Pearl Kingsley as in Mom's book of Dear Abby's 'Keepers':
"I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability -- to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this...
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip -- to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, The Michelangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland".
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language.
And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland."
Reflecting on Gratitude
Today, I can look back and say I am grateful for the lessons that trauma and grief have taught me.
Although initially a personal healing strategy, I now teach my students the importance of self reflection in the form of journaling.
As stressed, frustrated, angry as we can become in our daily lives, you can truly be your own best therapist by getting it out on paper. In the privacy of a journal, there is no right or wrong in content or number of entries.
I encourage the recording of happy experiences that occur as well. There are Gratitude Journals, yet a notebook will do. I would not offer one example, as all of our lists would be so very different.
Journaling can give the writer a sense of perspective and the relative importance of life matters.
For me, journal writing helps my mental well-being just as walking helps my physical health and stamina. For, in both writing and walking, I cannot remain negative for long. I can find my mind, body and spirit being drawn to the many thing I have to be grateful for.
I have been accused of being a Pollyanna, over the years. I am guilty as charged.
For the record: "Pollyanna did not pretend that everything was good. Instead she represented a cheery, courageous acceptance of the facts. She understood that unpleasant things are always with us, but she believed in mitigating them by looking for whatever good there is in what is." Eleanor Hodgman Porter
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