Thanksgiving started early for me this year. 2:15 a.m. to be exact. That’s the time my cell phone rang alerting me that Gracen was in need of some help. Following her call, I hurried to the bedroom next door to find Gracen flat on her back, thirsty, hot and trapped under her covers with her knees bent and sore.
I peeled her covers back and removed the new knee-high AFOs (Ankle/Foot Orthotics) she now wears to bed nightly. Then I helped her to straighten her legs out by pulling her ankles toward the end of the bed and simultaneously pushing down on her knees one at a time before getting her some water.
Through all that, she accepted help without one complaint, in spite of the fact that I slept through two text messages before she called my cell.
Then I kissed her goodnight for the second time and crawled back in bed hugging my pillow to my chest; and I thanked God for Gracen’s attitude and for the grace she demonstrates in the face of debilitating disease.
As I lay still waiting for sleep to once again overtake me, I absorbed the most recent physical changes in Gracen’s body. It hurts to watch her body continuously fail her. And I thought about gratitude. One thing I’ve found in the face of the deaths of my oldest and youngest daughters, Gracen’s injuries and progressive disease is that others, in sincere compassion, try to make me feel better by reminding me of the many blessings in my life. It’s almost as if people believe that counting your blessings negates your sorrows; which is categorically untrue.
Gracen’s diminishing physical abilities actually set the stage for thankfulness for it is in light her losses that I find myself grateful for much simpler things. In the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning I found myself thankful for my graceful daughter precisely because she has every reason in the world to be angry and resentful.
The point I’m trying to make is that gratitude is experienced in contrast to those things for which we are not thankful. Andrew Downs said it far better in his book Alex Hollick: Origins:
“To walk in the shadows is not a curse and to walk in the sun is not a blessing. They are simply relative points of harmony, by which we can appreciate what we have, what we once had and what we hope to have. The sun means nothing without the shadows, nor would shadows without the sun.”
So, by all means, count your blessings; but don’t beat yourself up for the normal emotions that arise from trials and loss. God doesn’t tells us to suppress our emotions. He tells us to bring our burdens to Him and when we do, gratitude will likely follow as we witness His care and provision.