Grief and Gratitude

I am currently reading “The Collision of Grief and Gratitude: A pursuit of sacred light”, a book comprised of 366 daily Facebook posts by author Rosanne Liesveld, beginning a week after the sudden and unexpected death of her husband Curt. Her first post was to express her gratitude for her son, John, who came to her side following his father’s death and said, “Mom, I will be there for you for anything you will ever need.” She followed the next day with a tribute to her daughter, Anne, and then over the next few days she expressed her gratitude for Curt’s family and the colleagues in her workplace. Other people were thanked in subsequent days.

Rosanne said she felt better after writing each of these short messages and soon realized that she needed to “look hard for some gratitude each day, no matter how miserable, angry, weak, or confused” she felt. She knew that “when I communicated my deepest and most authentic feelings, I ended up feeling better.” Even more she said “when I searched for the grain of gratitude I could face the day. Day by day by day, that revelation of grief and the hunt for gratitude changed me.”

Then she discovered that it changed others too, many of whom suggested she put these Facebook posts together into a book. Which she did. The posts for many days are full of gratitude for people, places and things that brought comfort and joy to Rosanne. On other days the posts mostly express the grief, fears and exhaustion she feels. But in any event they were therapeutic for her.

As I read her words I understand something of what she is feeling. I, too, have feelings of sadness and a sense of loss since my wife Mary’s passing last December. Her passing, while not as sudden and unexpected as Curt’s, was nevertheless traumatic for me. I screamed and cried when the realization first hit me that I would see her no more in this mortal life and that I was left alone, totally bereft of her companionship. And it has been quite cathartic for me to express my feelings and experiences in these blog posts.

It has been nearly six months now since Mary’s passing and I am settling into a new routine that occupies most of my time with pleasant activities. These activities, for the most part in the company of my family and the friends who have come around me in support, leave little time for outright grief. There are still days, however, when that grief catches me off guard. Today has been one of those days.

I was enjoying a turtle pecan cluster Blizzard (Mary’s favorite) at Dairy Queen, prior to my going down to the Dallas Theater Center, where Mary and I have had season tickets for a number of years, to see the last play of the 2017-2018 season. Although I was looking forward to the experience, I was suddenly blind-sided by a tidal wave of grief and a deep sense of loneliness. These hit me occasionally when I am at or near a place that Mary and I enjoyed going to, although it doesn’t stop me from going there. I was at a loss at that moment for any feeling of gratitude, even though most days I can find any number of things to be grateful for.

And then I remembered the totally unexpected blessing I received straight out of the blue last Wednesday. It was haircut day for me and I was just leaving Plano Barbers on 15th Street in downtown Plano, where James Russell, Jr. has been cutting my hair for some 30 years. He now does the best he can with what little I have to work with. Anyway, as I stepped out of the barber shop onto the sidewalk, I noticed a group of three middle-aged African-American (pardon me if that is not PC) ladies who had met and were laughing and exchanging hugs with one another. They were occupying most of the width of the sidewalk, but as I approached them, rather than saying “Excuse me” and trying to slip past them, I found myself saying something like “Where does the line form for hugs?” They looked at this old white dude for a second and then the lady in the middle of the three said loudly “Group hug!” and the three of them embraced me warmly, as we all laughed. As I stepped back I shook my head and said “Ye have not because ye ask not.” At which the middle lady said “You got that right” and gave me a high five.

As I started on down the street toward where my car was parked, I looked back at them and said, “Thank you ladies. You just made my day!” And indeed they had. Continuing on down the street I felt that I was joined by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in my happy dance. Surely that heartfelt expression of companionship and joy from total strangers was a little slice of what heaven will be like. Remembering that elevated me out of the slough of grief and self-pity. Thank you, Father! I am once again filled with gratitude.

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