Gratitude is Good Medicine

IMG_0027 (2)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).


  1. Colleen, what a gift you have, I am thankful for you sharing with others. You words speak directly to my heart. Thank you, Anne-Marie

  2. Thank you for this entry. This healing episode has touched a place in me I need to go. We all share the journey of life. Thanks again.

  3. You are filled with beauty! You are speaking from the deep well of grace that is within you! This, like many other of your reflections, need to be published for the spiritual health of a suffering society!
    Ps Everytime I pass the closet to hang my coat over a chair I remember and pray for Neil, you and your family! God is with you!!! Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts!!

  4. Colleen…You have given me much food for thought while at the same time touching the deepest depths of my heart. I must look to the positive and work on my Gratitude Journal more faithfully. I need to be thankful for all the things my husband has done for me through these many years and not be upset what he is not doing right now. By the way, the hike up those steps in Florence was a killer, but all the cats helped to ease the pain. What a wonderful trip…my daughter and I, my best friend and her pregnant daughter, and my niece and her wife. We stayed in a convent while in Rome…but you would expect that out of me…and in Florence we were in a tiny little hotel we found in town spread out in three rooms and with the scariest little elevator in which I have ever been. Thanks for helping to bring back some wonderful memories of family and friends. Again, thank you for sharing your beautiful writings with all of us. Their content mean more than you will ever know. Hugs, Genie

  5. Precious reminder for me of the choice I have everyday to live thankfully! Thankful today for the call and gift of a grateful heart! Thanks, Collen

  6. Colleen I am enjoying your blog I find the commentary helpful in my old life. This week I began treatment to implant an SCS in my back I am at the trial stage at this point and next week they will implant the device it appears to be working. tomorrow we head down the road to have dinner with family and Leif, Neils replacement, on earth will be the guest of honor he is one year old now and truly a blessing. Ican’t wait to get my hands on him. thanks and enjoy Thanksgiving

  7. I am glad to see you all here! It is good for me to write my thoughts down and sort through them, especially since doing that might help one of you.
    Keep reading and please share with anyone who might need it!

  8. Thank you so much for inviting me in. Love what I have read and looking forward to more. Blessed to be part of your circle!

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