Every year on Thanksgiving we say, “I’m thankful for my health, my family, my friends.” I say it every year, too. But this year, I have a truer, deeper, richer sense of thankfulness for all of this.
You think you’re thankful for your health, until you watch your newborn baby fight for her life with all her strength. Watch her be poked with needles and have wires and tubes coming out of all her limbs. Watch her swell up to twice her size and watch her undergo major surgery. Watch her struggle as she learns to breathe, learns to eat, learns to live. Watch her be brave. It has made me appreciate my health, my family’s health and Clara’s health in a whole new way. My eyes have been opened to just how much sickness there is in this world, how hard medical professionals work to make people better and how miraculous God’s healing is when nothing else is left. This year, I give thanks for good health.
You think you’re thankful for your family all the time, but when they are the ones who drive you to the hospital after you’ve had a c-section, hold you while you cry in a hospital cafeteria after being told your baby will die, ensure that you have meals to eat when you don’t feel like eating, that your house stays clean, your gas tank full, your pumping pieces washed… your appreciation grows. Nobody has lived this journey of the past year as closely as my family. I’ve been changed. They’ve been changed, too. When you’ve been through heartwrenching crisis and they’re the ones walking beside you and seeing you at the most broken, and love you through it, you know what it means to be thankful for family. I don’t know what I’d ever do without my parents, my in-laws, the rest of our extended family, and most of all my husband. This Thanksgiving our family grew by one. I give thanks for family.
You think you’re thankful for friends when they are the ones you talk to about your daily life, share a meal with, enjoy parties and games and travel together. But when your friends bring you meals and drop them off magically on your back porch so you’ll have nourishment when and if you make it home from the hospital, your thankfulness soars. When they offer prayers for your baby, but also for your own sense of peace and courage and stamina, you are humbled. When they shower you in gifts that say, “You’re special to us,” it is touching. When they listen, recognize that they cannot understand, but still love you through the dark valleys of life, there is deep gratefulness. We would not have made it through the past year without you, our friends. I’m thankful for old friends who know the story of my heart and also thankful for the new friends I’ve gotten to know because of this journey. You are dear to me and can (and do!) love me in a way that nobody else can. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Community is an amazing thing. I give thanks for friends.
Each year, when we drive down to Georgia for Thanksgiving, Robert and I take turns back and forth sharing, “I’m thankful for….” This year we listed many of the usual suspects, but also in our lists were nurses and doctors and casseroles and baby ounces. We have so much to be grateful for this year that we never imagined we’d be listing. We’re thankful for Clara’s determination and her fight. We’re thankful for resources like eating specialists and Playtex bottles and baby formula and physical therapists that have helped her thrive outside of Brenner Children’s Hospital. We’re thankful to be on the other side. We’re thankful for our changed perspectives. We’re thankful for God’s grace. We’re thankful for wine and beer and mac and cheese. We’re thankful for the incredible support system that we are embedded in and that we do not take for granted. In short, we’re truly overwhelmed with feelings of thankfulness for the life of our sweet miracle, Clara Mae. So, on this day set apart for thankfulness and gratitude, we are praising God and giving Him glory for the works He has done. Today, and every day: Thanks Be To God.