Friday, December 7, 2012

Learning to be thankful

Just over five months ago, we buried our son Aiden. This has been the most painful year of our lives, and the holidays are shaping up to be excruciating. It's perhaps understandably difficult for us to be as festive as normal this year, but we're trying.

My youngest brother and his wife graciously hosted Thanksgiving this year, and while it was good to spend time with the family and eat five metric tons of turkey, Cori and I had to fight off a constant sense of melancholy all week. You see, even the good days feel somehow empty now.  Even the happiest moments are tinted with just a shade of sadness. Trick-or-treating, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas shopping, all of these things would be different with a healthy baby in the house.  They would be busier, more stressful... they would be better.

That said, I am being purposeful about being thankful for the good things in my life, and I feel as though I should take a moment to list some of them.  In spite of the rough year, I'm thankful for:
  • My wife Cori - She continues to impress me with her strength.  If asked, she would quickly name me as "the strong one" because of my typically stoic nature in the face of tragedy.  She would be quite wrong.  Her burden in this was uniquely painful, both emotionally and physically, and the fact that she still manages to drag herself out of bed in the morning to care for our other two children is truly remarkable.
  • My daughter Isabella - She's clever, curious, empathetic, and infinitely forgiving.  She makes me smile every single day.  She took on cancer and won, and she continues to inspire me with her bravery.
  • My son Brady - He may burn my house to the ground before he enters Kindergarten, but I love him anyway.  He's relentless, tenacious, and jovial.  His mischievous grin will probably make him a movie star some day, but for now, he's my favorite little wrecking ball.
  • My new job - As we closed in on Aiden's due date, my previous employer fell on some hard times.  Things started to get very tight, and the stress level was ratcheted up.  I made the very tough decision to leave for another job, and the new gig has been very rewarding.
  • My family - They have their quirks (as does every family), but when there is a crisis, my family shows up and offers their support.  My father describes my family this way: "We may not be very useful, but we'll be there, and we'll be eating."  Having my family show up from all over the country helped greatly in the days after Aiden's death.
  • My wife's family - Yes, really.  My in-laws are all great.  They have been very supportive through all of this.  Having family that lives nearby is a big deal.
  • My son Aiden - Here's the difficult one to articulate.  I'm thankful for Aiden... not for his Trisomy or his passing, of course... But for him.  I'm thankful for what he taught me, for what this experience continues to teach me, and for what I hope it will teach me in the future.  I'm thankful for the overpowering love I feel for him, even though I never got to properly meet him.  I'm thankful for the prayers that flooded in on his behalf, even though they weren't answered in the way that I had hoped.  I'm thankful that Aiden's story caused so many people to pray.  I'm thankful that it continues to do so.
Being thankful is really not going to come naturally this year.  It would be far easier to turtle up, shut down, fold in on myself and lock out the world.  Being sullen and miserable for the rest of this year (and maybe for several years thereafter) would be forgivable.  Being constantly sad would be effortless right now.

Here's the thing... I don't want to be that way.  I want to be happy.  I want to give Bella and Brady a magical and meaningful Christmas.  I want to sing carols, drink mulled cider, eat ham, open presents, bundle up, light a fire, and be thankful for what this holiday means.  And so, I will.

But it won't be easy.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the update. I still pray for you guys. I've tried emailing you on several occasions to tell you that we're thinking about you and give you an update on some things we've been going through. I don't if I have the wrong email address or you're just ignoring me. :) It's wonderful to hear you still have a thankful heart. You and I both have so much to be thankful for. Take care my friend.
    Paul C. from TN