Steve and Cooper, New York City, October 2003
Monday, November 16, 2009
My friend Mary Jacobs, an amazing mom, friend, journalist and cancer survivor, writes for the United Methodist Reporter, a national newspaper for the United Methodist Church. For this week's issue, she writes about gratitude. (I'm among the many people she interviewed.)
Gratitude is especially timely now, of course, with Thanksgiving a week away. Practicing gratitude isn't seasonal, though -- a lesson that Steve taught me and that I continue to experience daily.
After Steve's diagnosis, he woke up every morning and thanked God for the gift of another day. I'm certain that Steve, in whatever way he's able, continues to give thanks for his eternal life.
My prayers to God throughout the day are most often thanks -- for a new day, for Cooper and Katie, for warm memories of Steve (even when they make me cry), for the kind souls who continue to support us and pray for us, for the ability to work from home, for my health, for more resources than we need, for unexpected moments of joy.
Until 2007, my favorite holiday was Thanksgiving. I like that it's relatively simple and calm. There aren't a lot of commercial expectations or over-the-top decorations. It's a day to spend with family.
Now, I struggle with the day because of associated memories.
We always spend Thanksgiving at Aunt Ami and Uncle Rich's home in Austin. Our visit in 2007 was one of our last moments as a family before cancer -- at least before we knew about it.
By then Steve and I were concerned about his symptoms (headache, slightly slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, hiccups). On our drive home from Austin, we agreed that he needed to call his physician first thing Monday. Putting all the symptoms together and saying out loud that we thought there was a problem was emotional at the time -- reflecting on it now is even more difficult.
A year later, we returned to Austin. So much had changed -- multiple MRIs, biopsy, diagnosis, radiation, chemotherapy, complications, hospitalizations. And the tumor that had been stable was starting to grow again. Steve's stability was compromised. His fatigue was greater.
We both prayed desperately that we'd have another year. We both understood that that was unlikely. We never gave up hope, but we constantly tried to balance optimism with realism.
And now it's another year later. We will return to Austin, and we will give thanks for our blessings. We will cook and eat our traditional dinner and play and laugh. And weep.
We'll work our way through a meaningful holiday without Steve. As we struggle, I'll continue to give thanks for his life and love and enduring legacy. Practicing gratitude is what gets me through some of my most grief-stricken moments.