My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to...
So hard to believe that August ends this Friday. I couldn’t tell you where the month went. If feels like the days were short and the weeks were shorter. A mere few days and our household will be reduced to two humans and four snouts and my grocery bill won’t simply be cut in half, it will most likely be cut down to a quarter of what it was. The girl has been gone a mere few days and I miss her already. I will miss the chaos and am well aware of how empty this house will be so I am embracing these last few days the best I can with gratitude.
Gratitude. Simple word. Means the quality of being thankful, a willingness to show appreciation for kindness. Easy concept, right? Costs us nothing. Don’t have to order it off of Amazon, don’t have to wait for weeks on end for it to show up with weird writing on the label from somewhere in Nigeria. Yet how little do we do it? How often do we approach life with the glass half empty, moaning and complaining about the negatives of our day? How readily is it expressed? I guarantee you that for the vast majority of us, not as often as it should be.
I went to a funeral on Monday for a dear friend. My Rob’s best friend's wife died. She was 48. Nope, not a typo. And at the church where it was standing room only, the priest that married Tony and Debbie presided over her funeral Mass. And his homily for the service was about a little plaque he saw in Tony and Debbie’s bathroom. The plaque read, “Grow from a place of gratitude.” And that, my friends, in honor of Debbie and as a gift to every person that reads this blog, allow this to serve as a precious reminder, a proverbial slap upside the head about how incredibly important, vital even, how necessary it is that we live our lives from a place of being thankful. That we grow each day from a place of gratitude.
A quick history on Debbie
Debbie was an incredible person, the type of individual that I think a part of us all wish we could be. In my learning of her past, her destiny was laid out for her the summer before she was a freshman in high school and traveling in Ireland with her family. Her family came upon a horrific car accident that had literally happened seconds before they got there and the road was completely shut down. A physician driving a medium sized car with his toddler had crossed the center line and hit a smaller compact car head on. In the compact car was a family of six, none of them wearing seat belts. Debbie jumped out of the car and her father found her waist deep in the car talking calmly to the young boy in the back of the car. When the EMTs finally arrived they suggested to the family to keep a close eye on Debbie as what she witnessed in the car was traumatic and could cause significant emotional distress for Debbie. What it did instead was give Deb insight into what her gift of healing was.
Debbie started her career as an EMT and not long after became a paramedic. She received her Master of Science Degree as a Physicians Assistant in 2001 and worked in cardiac surgery, harvesting veins for surgeons. In addition, Debbie was a member of the United States National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), Disaster Medical Assistance Team Massachusetts - 1 (DMAT MA-1). She was deployed to Ground Zero, Hurricane Katrina, Haiti and countless other domestic and international deployments. That one instance as a teen lit the fire inside her to give back to others, to do all she could to heal and to serve. They said that the worse the situation was, the calmer Deb was and her ability to inspire others around her to not only give their best but then to give some more made her a tremendous leader.
Debbie was diagnosed with stage 3 Gastric Cancer in December 2015. With endless testing, etc. doctors determined her Gastric Cancer was a direct result of her exposure to carcinogenic fumes, smoke and ash at the World Trade Center Attack. She battled for the next two years and a half years. Deb died at home on August 23, 2018. She leaves her husband, Tony, and four children - ages 11, 10, 8 and 6. Heartbreaking doesn’t even come close.
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
Tony gave a eulogy, thanking all of the many medical personnel that were a part of Deb’s treatment, her many family and friends that were an integral part of her life. Before he stepped down he said to the congregation that Deb was his life partner, the love of his life, his soul mate but that his Deb - she was not one in a million. His wife, the mother of their children, his Deb - she was once in a lifetime.
You never need to carry more than you can hold
Here is this woman who has done nothing but live a life of service. Giving to others selflessly. You could be the chief surgeon at the hospital or a member of the cleaning crew and she treated you exactly the same. And never once did you hear her say, “Why me?” She approached the vast majority of her final days with gratitude, thankful for the time at home with her children and for the side effects that she didn’t have. She laughed as much as she could and made as many memories as she could. Deb continued to do all she could to make sure her family would be okay, that her friends knew how much they meant. Rob was able to see her a few days before she died and I know that those moments that he had with her, where she recognized him and they shared the understanding that she knew he would be there for Tony - that was a gift. Not just for him but for her as well.
Finding Our Gratitude
It’s easy as I said to sit here and talk about being grateful but like anything else, we need to learn how to do it. Practice makes perfection, right? Again, I’m going to rely on the life that Deb lived, the way in which she approached her life and let that guide me now.
Be nice, peepers. Be kind to others. A small act of kindness, a show of support and compassion and care goes such a long way to changing lives. And it is positive energy. You attract what you put out and why not throw good things out to others! A smile, a “how are you?”, a text to a friend saying you’re thinking of them, lending a hand to a stranger. Kindness matters and is contagious.
Let It Go
Whether it’s a transgression, road rage, an argument over Fantasy Football - let that garbage go. Life is so short, too precious to allow minor and petty irritations guide the way in which you lead your life, the person that you are. Take the higher road, be the bigger person and let it roll away.
I didn’t say forget - I said forgive. At the end of the day, these things that we hold tight in our fists, the things people have said, the ways in which we have been hurt, so on and so forth - the only person we are impacting when we hold onto those things is OURSELVES. I’m not saying forget what was done or said because knowledge is power. And that knowledge can help steer you in a different direction next time or help you alter your course of action in a way that is more conducive to a positive outcome. But forgive. It unburdens the heart.
Stop and Pause
I have had to do a lot of this lately because my life is overflowing, overwhelming and, at times, has felt like too much. You need to stop and pause. Breathe. Slow it down. Smell the roses, leave the laundry, put down your phone. No one talked about what a great texter Deb was or all of her photos on Instagram. They talked about the conversations they had with her, the moments they shared with her. Stop and pause, friends. Life will move forward regardless of whether or not your entire to-do list is crossed off.
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to
Redefine Your Wants
One thing the priest said about Deb was that she didn't want for things. Sure, she wanted a cure for cancer - who wouldn’t? But she didn’t want for anything. In her eyes, she had all that she needed and, in fact, felt incredibly blessed for all that she had. Blessed. If you start making a conscious effort to be grateful for what you have instead of focusing on what you want next, that void that you HAD is filled with gratitude for what you HAVE.
Make a Gratitude List
I have preached this countless times and if you take the time to do it, it works. Make a gratitude list. I don’t care if it’s five things or it’s fifty things. List the things in your life that you are grateful for. A hand that can hold your child’s hand. A hot cup of coffee in the morning. A car that gets you where you need to go. The warmth of a pet at your feet. And keep it with you. In your wallet, in your purse, in your pocket - doesn’t matter. And when life starts getting overwhelming, gift yourself a moment to pull out your list and remember all those things that truly matter most, that make you feel grateful.
This is so important and something that I think is so lost in this day and age. Live a life of service to others. Give of yourself to someone other than yourself. Put aside your agenda and put someone else’s first. Give up a weekend to help a friend clean out their garage. Give up a day of cleaning the garage and go visit your parents, a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. Take the shopping cart rolling around in an empty parking spot in Walmart and put it where it belongs. And do it not looking for thanks or a pat on the back but because helping others is the right thing to do. And it feels good. And it makes others feel good. And what is not to love about that!
Find Your Adventure
Get off the couch, unplug from your phone and your laptop and go find your adventure. Apple picking with the kids, go hiking, go on a road trip, a bike ride, a walk to collect leaves. Find some sort of adventure and do it. Have a place you want to visit? That dream vacation? When we die our dreams die with us. If it’s important and doable, make a plan, find a way, stop at nothing and live out your dreams.
Be the Friend You’d Love to Have
Be the type of friend that you want to have in your life. If you want to be around people that are positive, enlightening, happy - be that person. Like attracts like. Maybe you have to fake it til you make it and that’s okay. But the qualities that you admire and enjoy in others - allow them to reflect in you.
This is another big one and Deb was the very essence of this. Be humble in your accomplishments. It was wonderful what Deb did - she served others her entire life. But rarely if ever did you hear her talk about it. She was too busy asking you questions and having interest in your life. Be humble about your victories and gracious with your defeats.
Take an Active Interest in Others
Take the time to get to know other people and have a genuine interest in their life. Care about what they care about and allow them to express that without interjecting about how you had a similar experience and here let me tell you all about my story. Place value in the lives of others and what is valuable to them and you will be amazed at not only what you learn about them but how it can impact and even change your perspective.
I hope you know somebody loves you and wants the same things too
We miss so much by talking over others, voicing our opinions, making sure that we are heard that we often lose out on what we can learn. And when we are learning we are GROWING. There is so much to lose when you are hung up on being right, your way, your thought process and when there is an unwillingness to listen or value what others have to say. Not only is it demeaning to the other person, you’re doing yourself an injustice. And that certainly is not something that paves the way to feeling gratitude.
Give and Receive with Good Intent
This one is so important, so vital to our gratitude. Give of yourself with good intent, for the right reasons. Not for recognition, not for a pat on the back but because it is the right thing to do, the just thing to do. And receive with the same good intent. Believe and receive that the comment, the gesture, the outcome is the result of someone trying to do the right thing, say the right thing, be the right thing. We are so quick to judge, so quick to assume and how many times have we misperceived the intent of the giver? Misguided the ‘gift’ assuming intent that was less than? Give and receive from a place of good.
Growing From Gratitude
Oh Lord do I have some growing to do. I have been so caught up in this mess called life that I have lost a lot of my gratitude. Things have not been perfect for sure but I have so much to be grateful for. Because I am a believer in walking the walk if you’re going to talk the talk, here is my gratitude list. Be kind…
I am grateful for a strong body.
I am grateful for my worn and torn couches that have been well loved by my dogs.
I am grateful for fingers that allow me to type words that touch people’s hearts.
I am grateful for a husband that tells me he loves me every single day.
I am grateful for yellow corn because - Tito’s.
I am grateful for my daughter’s laugh and the freckles that match mine.
I am grateful to have sons that will hold my hand in public.
I am grateful for the schools that are giving my children opportunities I never had.
I am grateful that I am a good friend and for the friends that share their life with me.
I am grateful that my parents are still alive.
I am grateful for my Gussy who loves me so much, no matter what.
I am grateful for the love of others and compassion towards others that all of my children display.
I am grateful for air conditioning, tacos and beaches.
Debbie was truly a wonderful woman, an example of living with gratitude. She touched more lives in 48 years than most people get the opportunity to do in 80. She was generous with not just what she had but with whom she was. She didn’t give you a part of herself, she gave you all of herself. Her life of service ultimately brought her to her loss of life but never did she look back with regret or misgiving about her choice to heal, to help, to be kind and give of herself. And despite the hand that she was dealt, she approached her days with a grateful heart, appreciative of each day and the gifts that it brought. Because no matter the devastating news, the blows that she endured, she managed to find the beauty in every day. In death as in life, her message, her joie de vivre, her kindness and service continues to make an impact on others. It certainly has with me.
Yeah, this is my wish...
Grow from a place of gratitude. Find what makes you happy, who makes you happy and emulate those qualities, those attitudes. Make the CHOICE to begin and end your day with gratitude. Thank you, Deb, for your grace, your light, your your example of how to live life to the absolute fullest. Rest in peace, sweet girl.