A few weeks ago I noticed the photo albums lining our living room shelves. With a sigh, I pulled one down and settled on the couch to browse through it. It was of a trip Neil and I had taken to Italy years ago, just the two of us, our daughters having their own vacation back in the States with my sister.
As I turned the pages I smiled, a few times even laughed out loud, as I remembered the details surrounding each of those pictures. There we were, complaining about climbing the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo in Florence; snooping around in Sienna to find Frances Mayes’ house; playing around in a deserted Tuscan castle we found; pitching pennies into the Trevi fountain and giggling hysterically because it was so crowded we kept missing.
And when I turned the last page and closed the book, I was still smiling. The pictures reminded me that even though I don’t have the future with Neil, I do have the past. I have all the beautiful memories we made, and I have all the blessings of the life we built. Thankfulness filled my heart that night and has stayed with me since.
I look all around our house and I see signs of our life together – books we read and talked about, music CDs we listened to, DVDs of movies that made us laugh and gave us catch phrases to recite later (“dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria!” and “what hump?” for example). I can see the signs of his hard work: French doors he put in our bedroom, shelves he built in our living room, kitchen counters and tile floors he designed.
Looking at all this I am overwhelmed with deep gratitude. Not to say the pain isn’t still there; it always will be. But at least today, I can see past that pain to the gifts of our life – our beautiful home; our wonderful daughters; our many adventures cemented in my memory – and I can be be grateful.
I realize how easy it is to forget all I have because I am remembering all I have lost. If I let my heart be filled with the pain of losing Neil, there isn’t room for the joy of a day with my daughters, or the peace of a prayerful meditation, or the scarlet beauty of the autumn trees in my neighborhood.
Gratitude is an antidote to a great number of ailments, and it can fill my heart enough to crowd out the sad places, the “poor me” places, the resentful places. Concentrating on my blessings makes me far less likely to worry about the future or be distracted by the past. My life isn’t perfect, but even without Neil, it is something beautiful. So is yours.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus
(1 Thes 5:18).