At first I thought, “What is the point?” and then I thought, “Why not now?”
About 19 years ago, I learned about the truth of this statement by Brother David Steindl-Rast. My mother had been journeying through almost two years of ovarian cancer treatments. During this time, I had moved back home since I had the good fortune to be accepted for my clinical internship in psychology in my hometown. The summer that my internship was ending, my mother needed another surgery. This time, it was clear that she was not going to make a recovery. I did not know how to face the prospect of losing my mother. I had come across an article describing the practice of gratefulness. At first I thought, “What is the point?” and then I thought, “Why not now?”
I found an out-of-date, pocket-sized daily planner in my parents’ house, found the correct date, and committed to finding three things each day for which I was grateful. I decided to do bullet points so that I was more likely to be consistent and embarked on my own journey of gratitude.
For the worst three weeks of my life, as I watched my mother slip from this earthly world, I noted many acts of kindness when the nurses and doctors treated my mother with compassion and respect; I appreciated the gifts of friendship as my family’s needs were attended to by others; I savored the love of family as we spent our time together and shared memories; and I counted the blessings in each moment we had with my mother until her last breath.
The gratefulness that arose from my daily practice, helped me to find light in the darkness and joy in the sorrow. I miss my mother terribly still. Through continuing to practice gratitude, I see all the beautiful ways in which she touched my life and how she lives on through the stories I share with my children.
I don’t speak of the gift, because not for everything that’s given to you can you really be grateful. You can’t be grateful for war in a given situation, or violence, or sickness, things like that. So the key, when people ask, ‘Can you be grateful for everything?’ — no, not for everything, but in every moment. ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast
I invite you to find happiness in your life through gratefulness. Here are a few ideas for practicing gratitude:
- Start a gratitude journal. Keep it as simple as three bullet points a day with a word, a phrase, and image, a drawing, etc.
- Create opportunities to express your gratitude directly to another. Send an email or write a note to someone thanking them for their smile, friendship, etc. Leave a sticky note on a coworker’s desk to thank them for their help or support.
- Incorporate gratitude into your meditation practice or choose a time of day to reflect on what you are grateful for that day.
- Find a gratitude partner. Choose someone with whom to embark on this journey together and support each other in this practice.
- Keep it delightful. The things we enjoy, we will do again and again.
We invite you to share a story about yourself or another person, reflecting on the question: “How has gratefulness shifted a moment, an experience, or a lifetime?”
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Thank you so much for sharing this thoughtful essay. I am inspired to actively begin my own gratefulness practice with your suggestion – 3 things for which I’m grateful, every single day.
Cecilia, this is a touching, tender, and relevant story on life’s journey impacting us all. Thank you.
Cecilia: Thanks for showing the way to grateful living under the most difficult of circumstances. It is often counter-intuitive when loss is so emiment to steep in the blessing. Love and loss go together. If I don’t have the love I don’t’ feel the loss. I’ll take love every time even though I know there well be the pain of sweet loss.
Dear Cecilia, that was so beautiful, heart-warming and inspiring! Thank-you for your sharing! I can understand how you miss your dear Mom, but as you said she lives on.