Is gratitude enough?

I attended a funeral this afternoon. I know how much it meant to me to see familiar faces at Brody’s funeral and I wanted to be there, just to sign my name to the guest book.

The service was for a mother who, at not even 60 years of age, left behind two beautiful daughters and truly one of the world’s most devoted husbands. Every aspect of the service demonstrated the great and powerful love that this family has created. I could not help thinking how much more it hurts when you lose someone you planned to love for many more decades.

Ever since Brody died, I am far too aware of my mortality and the vulnerability of those I love. And I resent it. I miss feeling nearly invincible. I miss thinking death was for the old. I always knew that we are old enough to die before we are even born, but now I feel it. It is probably one of the worst side effects of losing a child. I don’t know how to feel safe again.

I have been thinking a great deal about gratitude and the power it has in the face of tragedy. I have always considered gratitude to be one of the most powerful forces in life. Gratitude dissolves disappointment. Gratitude takes what you have and makes it enough. Life simply cannot be lived well without practicing gratitude.

But is gratitude really powerful in the face of this? Will it hold up? The weight in my heart is heavy; I’m not sure gratitude will be enough to bare up under it. Sometimes, I’m not even sure love will be enough.

Near the end of the retreat for bereaved moms that I recently attended, each mom made a gift for her lost child to leave among the trees in the Whiteshell. My intention, as I made this offering, was to choose to see Brody as a gift. I think that is necessary if I am going to know peace again. If I think about how he should be here right now, the birthdays and family trips and memories missed, I will be crushed. I will never be able to really live under the weight of this loss. Happiness will always be weak and cracking from the seismic gap in its structure.

But if I can recognize the gift of the time I had with Brody – if I can focus on the gain instead of the loss – I think I can… I think I can maybe find power in gratitude again. I can remember that love is not just an invitation to suffering. Maybe I can even enjoy what I have, enjoy every day, instead of being terrified that I will lose more.

I simply cannot live life wishing for the past to be different. I cannot make it different. I have to see all the beauty in the past and value it as meaningful. Of course, I would choose to have more time with Brody, but no one is giving me that choice.

The options before me are to live life with the perspective that it will never be full, or to live life thankful for all the gifts.

Brody, you are a gift. Brody, you are a gift. I am thankful that we had time to love each other and I am thankful that love doesn’t end with death. You are a wonderful addition to my life. I will not focus on what you could have been, I will be thankful for what you are. You are my beautiful son and I will hold you again. Until then, I know you do not want me to allow your death to cripple my joy and security for the rest of my life.

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