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.