Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Remembering to be Thankful

When I was in college my grandmother suffered a stroke.  This first stroke was just one of many she suffered over the course of about three years until she finally died from one.  These strokes affected her in a progressively negative way.  The first one she had affected her ability to raise her right arm and also her speech.  She also fell and tore her rotator cuff in her left arm, rendering her virtually unable to use either of her arms.  As the strokes progressed in severity, her ability to take care of herself was also affected.  About a year after her first stroke, we decided to put her in an assisted living facility.  As she deteriorated, we moved her to an increasing level of care until finally, right at the end, she was in a fully assisted nursing home.

I remember my aunt coming up to visit my grandmother while she was still in a section of the facility that was for folks who were still fairly independent, but needed some extra help.  In this section of the facility she was served a couple of meals a day and got some help cleaning her apartment. 

During my aunt's visit, we ended up having lunch over at my grandmother's apartment.  After lunch, my aunt and I were washing dishes by hand and my aunt casually looked over at my grandmother and said, "Boy, I sure bet you don't miss washing dishes!"  Suddenly without warning, my grandmother burst into tears.  My aunt and I stood there shocked for a moment before we could register that my grandmother was crying over not being able to do the dishes.

I was pretty young when all of this was happening...maybe 20 or 21, but the memory of this day is etched with me.  You see, my grandmother wasn't sad because she liked doing dishes....she was sad because even if she had wanted to...she was physically incapable of helping.  It wasn't the dishes, it was what the dishes represented.  My grandmother was a feisty, strong and capable woman.  I don't know how she couldn't have been, growing up in the depression, raising a family of four and then in her later years nursing my invalid grandfather until his passing.  This woman, who'd served her family and others for her whole life was now almost completely dependent on other people. 

I had an epiphany at that moment....the epiphany was just how thankful and grateful I should be over the things I any moment they could be taken away.  I resolved to try my best to complain less about the things in life that were really not worth my time or energy to complain about.

I was reminded of this truth again this past week.  I just got done reading a book called "90 Minutes in Heaven."  This book is about a man who died in a car accident.  He was so dead that the paramedics who arrived did not even bother doing CPR on him.  His dead body sat in his car for 90 minutes until a man happened to come along and asked to pray for him.  After being declared dead for 90 minutes, this man, named Don Piper, came back to life.  Of course an accident as traumatic as he was in had a lasting impact on him physically.  Much of the book is about his road to recovery after this accident.  He lives in almost constant pain, he has no use of one of his arms, his leg is missing a whole piece of bone and is shorter than his other leg, twisting his body and causing arthritis among many other physical ailments.

In one chapter of this book, Don describes the emotional trauma of realizing he is unable to throw a football with his boys again, and cannot take the youth group skiing like he used to.  I was struck anew with all that I take for granted in life.  I am relatively healthy.  All my arms, legs, fingers and toes work exactly the way they were designed to.  My brain is fully functional, I can communicate with others and take care of myself. 

I am resolved yet again to be grateful and thankful for what I have....even when it means I am mowing the lawn for the second time in a week, or doing laundry yet again, or any of the things in life that seem to be my least favorite things to do.  I am going to remember to be thankful I have the ability to do them. 


1 comment:

  1. Wow Erin, powerful stuff. You are so right though there are many many things I take for granted every day or even complain about. Thanks for the reminder of how precious life is.