Thanksgiving is over. Kayla just had her 21st birthday, was here for a short visit and is back in Toledo on the home stretch of the first semester of her fourth year. The sun is rising late and setting early, when we see it at all. These are the dark days I dread every year.
To add to this, these are the holidays, a mixed bag. My favorite holiday has always been Thanksgiving. There’s no financial pressure. There’s no trying to pick the perfect gift. It hasn’t been tainted with commercialism. It’s all about spending time with family. What could be better than that? But, now we’re at the time of our lives when there are gaps at the table. We pretty much know when family gathers in a large group, one or more of us won’t be here next year. We think it might be Aunt Lil who is over 90. We don’t suspect it will be Richard, her 69 year old son. We certainly never think it’ll be our 15 year old Shayna. But, each year, as we gather and give thanks for one more trip around the sun together, we hold that pain of those who are not with us anymore.
I’ve been trying to cultivate this “attitude of gratitude” they tell me is the key to life, the law of attraction, manifesting what I want in life. But, when I hear people say to be grateful for life, I struggle. Being grateful when you’re going through hell doesn’t come easily or naturally. All the platitudes in the world don’t help with that. At Richard’s funeral a couple of weeks ago, the pastor said we should give thanks for God getting us up this morning, for our hearts beating, for drawing breath. OK… yeah. Well, what is the alternative? If you believe we are only our bodies; sure, we should be grateful that we’re not worm food for one more day. But, we’re not that. When we leave our bodies we’re more alive than we ever were here. You know who’s grateful right now? Richard is grateful. He’s Home. Being grateful for another day of struggling on this planet is difficult. I need something more specific.
Kayla came home a few days before Thanksgiving. She brought her boyfriend, Gabe. I so look forward to Kayla coming home and to getting to spend time catching up with her. We text while she’s in school, but it’s not the same. Gabe came to spend her birthday with her and she went out with her friends the night of her birthday. Thanksgiving night, my sister-in-law, her husband, and her three boys came to spend a couple of nights. So, I really didn’t get to spend much quality time one-on-one with Kayla over the break. Thanksgiving day we went to Columbus to spend time with my family. It’s tough for me to be around them since Shayna passed. My brother’s daughter is only a couple of months younger than Shayna. They were like twins, always together at family outings, always up to some “nonsense” (as Kayla would say). Seeing Briana without Shayna is tough. I got through the day, taking a few breaks every once in a while to spend some time with Shayna and tell her that I missed her physical presence.
I can’t force gratitude and I can’t pretend I’m happy about everything in my life. It’s a struggle being here without Shayna. The business is in a transitional phase that is taking a toll on my mental health. This life is hard. But, I did find things to be genuinely grateful for. Kayla is 21 and still enjoys spending time with Tywana and me. It’s not easy for her to be in this house without Shayna. But, she does it for us. She had dinner with one of her childhood friends her last night here, but she came home early to spend time with Tywana and me, alone and we watched the movie we had wanted to watch.
I reflected on Tywana and Kayla and how they have changed since Shayna’s passing. My first thought was how much they have grown since then. Kayla has gotten stronger and more assertive. She’s enjoying life more with more of a carpe diem attitude. She’s changed her major into some that is more in line with her passions. Tywana has expanded her horizons, taken a whole new look at life. She’s meditating, practicing energy healing. She’s dedicated to helping other people. But, I realized this was wrong. They haven’t changed since Shayna’s passing. What has happened is Shayna’s passing has presented an opportunity for them to reveal what was there all along. That strength, that passion, that drive was always there. What has changed is the expression of it is more full.
I am grateful for the time I get to spend with them. I am grateful for the abilities I have to overcome the challenges of the business. I am grateful for an amazing family to spend time with. Our house was full for a couple of days. We love having that energy here, even if it’s only for a couple of days at a time now.
Thanksgiving 2017 is in the books. Christmas is around the corner. Helping Parents Heal is full of parents who are struggling with a first or second holiday season with their children on the other side. I am grateful for having made it through two and being in a position in this third season to help others make it through theirs.