Today Let Me Appreciate

“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.” -Johannes A. Gaertner

The message came in late one night. My husband and I had just arrived home from a wonderful evening with dear friends. Thanks to the lingering warmth of flavorful sangria and the company of those I love, I felt peaceful and relaxed. But in less than sixty seconds, a five-sentence message turned my blood ice cold. My hands, hovering over the keyboard, began to shake. The words on the screen became blurred through my tears.

There were few details included in the message. But in this case, details were simply not needed. A reader of my blog was telling me her child had been murdered in August.

Each day I read – no, make that skim over – this eight-letter word in the news. But tonight there was no skimming. I read it over and over and over again. There was something about reading it here, in my inbox, from a dear soul one email message away that grabbed me in a chokehold. Murdered. For a few moments, I forgot to breathe.

And then I went there—crossing that line of “what if” and for one split second tried and to imagine if my child …

I can’t even type the words.

And cowardly, I couldn’t even imagine such devastation … so I quickly retreated back to the safety of here and now. I bolted upstairs, taking two steps at a time, to get to my precious children. I found them, as I prayed, peacefully sleeping in their beds. With each child, I rested my head on her chest just to feel her breath, just to feel her life.

In that moment, I made a silent vow to my dear reader one email message away that I would not say: “There are no words.”

Because in times of heartache and extreme tragedy, people often say, “There are no words.” But if you have been with me on this journey awhile, you know I can’t say that. Although I am certain of very little in my life, I do know that my purpose on this earth is to find hard, beautiful words when someone else can’t.

First, I found words for this remarkably courageous woman who gets up each day for her other precious child that lives. Then, I found words for me … and perhaps you. As much I like to say I am striving to grasp what really matters, I need reminders. Reminders that take my breath away … reminders that drop me to my knees and shake me from my selfish, materialistic fog … reminders that send me running to my children’s bedrooms to cry silent tears while listening to their beat of their hearts.

Truth be told, I need reminders to see the gifts of my life in the mundane … to be thankful for the ordinary events of my day—that if I actually stop to think about them—are really quite miraculous.

I need reminders that motivate me to be in a perpetual state of gratitude, not just on Thanksgiving Day.

So here are the words.
Here is the reminder.
And they are in honor of a very precious soul.

Today Let Me Appreciate

I fail to appreciate the feeling of her small body in footy pajamas until she suddenly outgrows them and declares, “I want regular pajamas; ones that don’t have feet.”
Today let me appreciate the perfect size and shape she is right now, today, in this moment.

I fail to appreciate the spaces between her teeth until I hold a small collection of baby teeth in my hand reminding me that the spaces have been permanently filled.
Today let me appreciate her beautiful smile … spaces or no spaces, crooked or straight, brushed or unbrushed. 

I fail to appreciate her incessant talking and questioning until it’s suddenly quiet and with bittersweet emotion I realize she’s grown into her own person.
Today let me appreciate her words and ideas so I might know who she is and who she is becoming.

Today let me appreciate my child.

 

I fail to appreciate those odd mannerisms that drive me crazy until we are separated for a time, and suddenly I long to hear one of those silly quirks.
Today let me appreciate the hair flip, the nervous giggle, the knuckle cracking, and even the humming, because when I hear these things I know I am surrounded by my loves.

I fail to appreciate him walking through the door until the hour grows late, and I’ve wrung my hands in worry praying for his safe return.
Today let me appreciate him walking through the door and let that appreciation spill out in words of love and gratitude.

I fail to appreciate the sound of my parent’s voice until she’s no longer a phone call away.
Today let me appreciate my loved one’s voice and thank her for loving me – while I still can.

Today let me appreciate my family.

 

I fail to appreciate the value of a kind comment until I get a zinger that cuts me to my core.
Today let me appreciate words of kindness and let me offer one in return.

I fail to appreciate the power of small acts of kindness until I watch my waitress cry at the sight of a $20 tip on a $24 bill.
Today let me appreciate the pain and suffering around me so that I might offer a glimmer of hope.

I fail to appreciate the richness of my life until I walk down the busy street and see sadness on the fringes—those with empty hands, empty eyes, and empty souls.
Today let me appreciate the fact that I have known love in my life and let me share it with one who has not.

Today let me appreciate the value of spreading kindness.

 

I fail to appreciate my thick, sturdy thighs until a relentless cold deprives me of my morning run.
Today let me appreciate the daily miracles of my imperfect body.

I fail to appreciate the wrinkles, the bulges, and the sags until I reflect on all that I have endured to be where I am today.
Today let me appreciate each beautiful memory of my life that is etched across my face and body.

I fail to appreciate a clean bill of health until my doctor tells me to get dressed –there is something we need to talk about.
Today let me appreciate my health and relatively pain-free existence.

Today let me appreciate I am alive. 

 

I fail to appreciate the value of a familiar face until I find myself in a new city, a new town, and everyone I meet is a stranger.
Today let me appreciate long-time friendships that time and distance cannot alter.

I fail to appreciate stability until the words “downsize” and “job uncertainty” hang in the darkness of a sleepless night.
Today let me appreciate stability – even if it’s just one person I can count on.

I fail to appreciate the value a safe drive home until I see blinding headlights and hear the scrape of metal against metal.
Today let me appreciate my safe drive home and those precious faces peering back at me in my rearview mirror.

Today let me appreciate my security.  

 

Today let me appreciate the sun – even when it’s behind the clouds.
Today let me appreciate the goodbyes – even if it’s not our last.
Today let me appreciate the goodness – even if I have to dig a little to find it.

Today let me appreciate the gifts in the mundane, ordinary moments that are graciously given to me. Because even though it’s far from perfect … and sometimes it’s messy and hard … this is my life.

And for this anything-but-small miracle that is my life … I am thankful.

 

******************************

If I could put the essence of this post to music, it would sound like this beautiful song by Passenger

“’Cause you only need the light when it’s burning low.
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow.
Only know you love her when you let her go.
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low.
Only hate the road when you’re missing home.
Only know you love her when you let her go.”

May this song send you off to a blessed Thanksgiving grasping what and who really matters to you.

I am truly thankful for your companionship on this journey, my dear friends of The Hands Free Revolution.

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Comments

  1. 1

    Katie says

    Powerful words for such a simple expression of thanksgiving. Thank you for so eloquently framing the obvious and mundane.

  2. 2

    says

    I can honestly say that I didn’t truly appreciate my life, or the people in it, until I lost the person closest to me many years ago. It is sad that we need reminders to appreciate the people we love, but sadly that is usually the case.
    The truth is that their are no words to help, to bring back their child, but we can honor them by not forgetting them, and by letting it change the way we live our lives, grateful for every day.

    • 3

      says

      Beautifully stated, Jen: “The truth is that their are no words to help, to bring back their child, but we can honor them by not forgetting them, and by letting it change the way we live our lives, grateful for every day.” Thank you for being my faithful companion on this journey, my friend.

  3. 4

    says

    Every time I come here to read these posts, I can’t help but to admire your character. As it was so clearly stated at the beginning, ‘there are no words’ is an easy out. It is very courageous to face up to a challenge such as this, let alone deliver on it so well.

    You highlighted something that I always tried to enlighten the parents of my students with. Everyday, our children do wonderful things. As you mentioned on your about page, it is easy to little the worries or the annoyances take over a parent’s focus. The cost is a psychological energy drain that leads to worry and anxiety. When compared to the multitude of little things children do right, those few aggravating qualities just don’t stack up. Also, it is easier to see the wonderful person the child is growing into.

    Most importantly, thank you Rachel for not invoking a deity. This life is about the strength, courage, and community that WE build. It is too easy to use stock phrases like ‘a better place’ or ‘His will’. They do nothing to mitigate the loss. Instead, your action was much more powerful. It inspires a companionship and that is what really drives the human spirit. You really have something to be proud of here, out of your wonderful work.

    So let’s take a moment to appreciate what we do have. Take a moment to appreciate the bravery of the mother who inspired this post. For being brave enough to write in the first place, and for fighting through it all for the family that is still looking up to her. Take a moment to appreciate Rachel’s ability to utilize words that help people find real meaning. Appreciate the value of the lessons learned today, though it is not worth the cost of a precious little life.

    • 5

      says

      This is just beautiful, Seamus. Your comments never cease to be enlightening, inspiring, and thought-provoking. I feel so honored when you grace the comment section with your eloquent and powerful insights. Your last paragraph will stick with me for a long, long time. Thank you for being a part of this life-changing journey, Seamus.

  4. 6

    says

    Thank you for the always well-written thoughts on living in the moment…living in the today. Best wishes to you and your family for a blessed Thanksgiving.

  5. 9

    says

    This brought me to tears this morning. After a rough night with a restless, sleep-talking toddler in our bed, I awoke to the toddler saying petulantly, “I don’t love you mama” and I lost my patience. I walked away from him for a minute when I should gather him in my arms and show him that he can count on me. I used a harsh tone of voice instead of a sweet one.
    I appreciate you today, Rachel. For always telling us the truth.

  6. 10

    says

    Hearing about those stories just bring up so much fear in me too, but to move from the fear into appreciation and gratitude. That is the challenge. Tweeted this.

  7. 12

    says

    Aw dear friend, what a gift this is–you are–to us this morning. For many reasons I’m too tired to enumerate, I needed to read this post this morning. Love and peace to you.

    Gonna share this on FB.

  8. 14

    Josh says

    At my little boy’s request, I laid in bed with him last night and chatted. We talked about tractors, movies, and puppies before it got quiet and we just held hands. Then, as I watched, his eyelids started getting heavy, his grip lightened, and his breathing deepened, before I saw the moment he drifted off. These are the moments that take my breath away and the ones that make life worth living.

    Far too often, we live life through the rearview mirror, dwelling on things we cannot change, or we waste our time planning out that which has not happened. What we must realize is that now is all we have. If we are mindful and appreciative of what we have at this moment, the past will have nothing but cherished memories and the future will take care of itself.

    Thank you, Rachel, for yet another wonderfully thought-provoking post.

  9. 16

    Laurel says

    Beautiful… One commenter mentioned a thank you that you didn’t mention God. That may be so but i read it as a prayer of gratitude & thanksgiving. Thank you for sharing & for your kind & compassionate heart.

    • 17

      says

      Thank you, Laurel. I am grateful to know this post resonated with you, as it did others, despite our own interpretations. These messages are divinely placed on my heart, and I am truly humbled to be the messenger.

  10. 18

    Cody says

    Your posts seem to find me on the right days: My 3rd child was born 5 days ago. He has endured major surgery, lung failure, and kidney failure. However he is a fighter and will come through this unscathed. The other families around us in the NICU are not lucky enough to say the same. Their babies will always have to fight. I am blessed to have all that I do. Thank you for helping me see that.
    I agree, your purpose is to give words when many of us can’t find the right ones. Please keep it up, there are lots of people that find strength in your writing.

    • 19

      says

      Thank you, Cody. Your message means so much. Your son sounds like an incredible fighter with a remarkable spirit. I pray he continues to flourish and amaze. Sending love and peace to you and your family today.

  11. 20

    Michelle says

    Again, thank you!!

    I have been guilty of using “there are no words…” when I feel I need to open with an apology for the clumsy yet heartfelt words I am about to share with someone I seek to comfort in a small way.

    Thanks for being my fav blog.

  12. 21

    Jessica says

    Thank you for sharing and for encouraging us to find words. Words don’t flow easily for me, especially in difficult times. I am also paralyzed by fear: I am afraid of writing the ‘wrong’ thing, and I have been know to write, “There are no words” simply because I’m afraid I will share the wrong words. I am determined I will no longer use that phrase.

    Your message is, without a doubt, one that resonates with so many of us, and it is appreciated. Thank you for your post today, and for sharing.

    • 22

      says

      Thank you, Jessica. I have used those words, too. And I have to say, I think that reaching out — even if “there are no words” is better than not reaching out at all. I once wrote in a post that sometimes our mere presence is the best thing we can offer in times of pain and suffering. I believe that. So when words fail us, let us just sit with someone in his or her pain. Grateful for your comment and for your presence on this journey.

  13. 23

    Darla Hobson says

    Your post reminded me of a night not long ago, when I was the last one to go to bed. My husband was snoring, my granddaughter (spending the night in the big chair & ottoman in our room) was snoring, my 14-yr-old labs were snoring at the foot of our bed, and our 21-yr-old terrier mix was snoring in her bed next to us. I could even hear my youngest daughter (18), snoring in the next room. It was so loud! And I thought to myself, wow, I am really blessed. I am laying here listening to a symphony of snores, and it is confirmation of all the love I have in my life and the peace that each one feels when at rest. I drifted off to sleep with a big smile on my face, cherishing every quirky sound.

  14. 25

    says

    Thank you for this. As a mother who buried my 9-month-old son in 1998, I am humbled by the reality that I still need reminders to be thankful for the precious people in my life. This brought tears to my eyes today.

    Happy Thanksgiving.
    Sandy

  15. 33

    Tino says

    Rachel,

    I love you. Your writing always moves my heart and I am reminded of what is important when I read your posts.

    I do think that I’ll have to stop reading your posts at lunch time though, because when I get back to work my employees will see I’ve been crying like a little kid!

    I am thankful you are in my life.

    Cheers,
    Tino

  16. 36

    says

    Wow! Wow! That’s all I can say…

    I keep thinking of a photographer I don’t know, but follow. She lost her little one years ago, and thus began the journey of photography for her. She says something like, “Not everyone will lose their child to death like I did, but every single one of us will lose our children to time.” I keep that in my mind during the hard days, where I’m struggling to keep my head above water: that I will LOSE my children to time–no matter what. And being with them is what is most important!

    Thank you, once again, for the incredible reminder.

  17. 37

    Kiersten Keester says

    “As much I like to say I am striving to grasp what really matters, I need reminders. Reminders that take my breath away … reminders that drop me to my knees and shake me from my selfish, materialistic fog … ”

    My breath has been taken away by what happened in Newton, and I am on my knees thankful for my children and their lives….your blog put into words what I’ve been unable to articulate. Thank you.

  18. 41

    Bakoly says

    While reading this following article talking about one of the best violinists in the world who plays unnoticed at a metro station during the rush hour ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html ), I’ve thought about you and your blog and felt like sharing it with you – and fussing a bit that I don’t know how to insert a direct link to this comment but finally letting go, trusting you’ll be able to manage.

    Your hands free journey is a real inspiration. I’m still struggling to settle in life and you help me to remember there’s much more than what I’ve realized so far (or haven’t) in the professional field and what people think about it.

    It’s an everyday challenge to acknowledge what matters. It’s an everyday challenge to revel in seeing my Dad preparing a snack, in listening to my Mom getting ready for work, in hearing my nephews’ belly laugh, in chatting with my sister early in the morning, or in joking with my brother-in-law… and to let them know how much I appreciate them (yes! we all live together)

    Thank you for such an oh-freeing challenge,

    Bakoly

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