Yesterday I was writing a long list to share here of things for which I’m insanely grateful – my heated mattress pad, doggie drinking fountains at the park, sunshine, pillow socks, Smitty, Taco Via, etc. But the corner of my mind was crowded with people I know and people I love who are spending this holiday (for the first time or the tenth time) with an incomplete party at their table. And I was having a hard time co-entertaining these contradictory feels of thankfulness and deep sadness.
Then Mom called to let me know we were about to lose (unexpectedly and out of the blue) one of my favorite people on earth, her best friend of close to forty years, Sandy. And since Sandy lived out of state, none of us could get there to say goodbye.
And the tug between “life sucks” and “thank you” pulled harder.
In 1978, Mom had joined Dad at a business conference in Atlanta. She was accompanied by a 3-month-old me and a 4-year-old Allison, so when Sandy introduced herself at lunch and offered help, fast friends were made. When the husbands met and clicked (the Holy Grail of couples’ friendships), we became family. The best kind of family: the kind you choose. I could fill ten photo albums with our shared vacations: mountains, beaches, deserts, and cruise ships. We did all the weddings together. We had “No More Chemo” parties together. We celebrated births and adoptions together. Our lives have been together.
And together we witnessed the full character of Sandy as she cared for her husband Darryl during his long fight with ALS. She was a cheerful helper and joyful giver. She was the kind of happy heart you want to be around and you want to be more like. And she’s the kind you miss terribly when she’s gone.
We had this print in the shop for awhile from the talented Emily McDowell and I always loved it. But today I’m finding the opposite sentiment to be true.
The fullest depth of “thank you” is felt most strongly in the darkest hole of “life sucks”. The most authentic “thank you” often coincides with the most heartbreaking “life sucks”. One allows the other.
“Life sucks” shines a blinding light on the “thank you” we spend our days taking for granted. The “thank you” we forget to ever say. The “thank you” we don’t even acknowledge because it’s always there.
“Life sucks” grabs me and shakes me awake to an overwhelming “thank you”.
Thank you for lifelong friendships. Thank you for examples of how to live. Thank you for kindred spirits. Thank you for souls I love enough to miss. Thank you for things worth caring so much about they break my heart.
“Thank you” makes “life sucks” bearable. And somehow…worth it.