A friend posted this message on social media.What if?
The question gave me pause, and I realized my life would be poorer by far. It is not that I am ungrateful; I am grateful. But do I express my gratitude every day? Especially to God? How often do I spend time just thanking God for all the good in my life?
When Jim was sick, I created a litany of gratitude, and every day I added to it. Nothing was too small to be included in my litany—a smile from a stranger, sunshine, the funny antics of the dog.
There were bigger things on the list, too— our faith, Jim’s excellent health insurance, living near a hospital with a cancer center and the generosity of friends and family.
I read the list to Jim every day, too, to remind him of all our blessings.
In those first days and weeks, when it felt that fear and anxiety might overwhelm me, I consciously sought blessings—something, anything, for which I could be grateful.
Jim’s death was imminent and God’s generosity was abundant. Those two realities co-existed.
I would often tell Jim about the day he got sick, because it was the day I started my litany. He had no recollection of that day or any of the days he was in ICU, but I would regale him with tales of the wacky things people said and did, which had not seemed funny when they happened but took on a comedic hue in the re-telling. I was grateful I could laugh at what had caused me so much anguish.
I lived in gratitude even though I knew I was on the verge of losing something precious—or perhaps because I was on the verge of losing something precious. Remembering my blessings helped me focus on God and gave me hope.
How could I not trust God when so many blessings were being poured out on me?
My awareness of God’s generosity was probably more acute during Jim’s illness than at any other time in my life.And then Jim died, and I grieved. I got out of the habit of adding to my litany of gratitude and out of the habit of reciting it.
My litany of gratitude came back to me last weekend when I facilitated a Day of Reflection for a volunteer group. They are at the beginning of their year of service, and I wanted to offer them some tools to help them navigate the ups and downs of service and community living.
I shared with them my own volunteer experience in l’Arche and what I learned about expectations and letting go—two subjects that continue to pop up in my life. I encouraged them to pray the Examen, an Ignatian prayer that helps keep us moving in the direction of God and gratitude.
God continues to pour abundant blessings on me, and I want to be more mindful of thanking God every day for my blessings