With Thanksgiving just in my rearview mirror, I find myself thinking about what gratitude means to me. The pilgrims were especially grateful because of the limited resources available to them the previous year, and because many had lost their lives to illness. I know the emotional and physical toll that personal loss can take. I can only imagine what this community had been through saying goodbye after goodbye. Yet, despite it all, a harvest had come. They welled up with gratitude for all they had received and for all they had been spared.
If you find yourself in the NICU right now, I’m sure you too feel that you have had a difficult year. Perhaps you have lost the security of your womb as a growing place for your sweet baby when a pregnancy ended unexpectedly. Or, like our family, maybe a traumatic delivery resulted in a battle for your baby’s life. Whatever brings you to the NICU today, stop to consider all that you have received and all that you have been spared. The NICU has a way of sucking the gratitude out of our hearts. It even has a way of replacing it with other unwelcome and life-draining emotions. True gratitude restores our spirits and sometimes gives us the strength we need to keep fighting through it.
All We Have Received
Sometimes to consider what we have received, we have to redefine what we expected in order to celebrate what is. I remember a NICU nurse calling us at home to ecstatically share with us our daughter’s urine output. Apparently, this was a big deal! No, we would not celebrate her life by rocking her to sleep at home. But, we would celebrate HER. When you fight for life in any capacity, you have a profound realization of the miracle of life. Every cell and system that must work together in order to keep us breathing and beating and believing in this miracle is something worth reflecting on. I am humbled by this gift of life, no matter how different it has turned out to be than what I imagined, because it’s been given to me.
What else have we received? Our babies made us mothers and fathers. We have received the best health care available in the world to give those babies a fighting chance. Our families were given a life to love and fight for which is changing us from the inside out and making us into better human beings. We are personal witnesses to the power of a community of people who will be there for us no matter where this journey leads us. We have shelter, food, clothing, love, life, opportunity, freedom. It is an inexhaustible list if we really take the time to consider it.
All We Have Been Spared
What have we been spared? Our oldest daughter is multiply handicapped, but we were spared her life. My husband and I have also suffered the loss of a stillborn son. It would seem that we were not spared the loss of another loved and cherished child. It takes time to learn to celebrate the life that will never be, but it is possible. I’m grateful for our son and the woman he is helping me to become. His life had purpose and meaning and value without ever having lived a single day. I have been spared many, many other things that deserve not to be overshadowed by the few things I have lost.
We should take the time today to embrace gratitude in our hearts. Let’s commit to looking past our expectations and recognizing what is beautiful, and noble, and true in our lives. Setting our minds on things worthy of our attention, and doing our best to surrender the rest. As we reflect on all that we have received, and all we have been spared, we take steps to get back a sense gratitude in our lives.