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An Attitude of Gratitude

On this Thanksgiving morning, I woke up at 4:37 a.m. to the sounds of my husband’s tapping Maggie’s cheeks while saying, “Breathe! Breathe!” I don’t know how long her seizure had been going on, but I watched 14 seconds of it. She came out of it. “How long?” I asked. “Too long,” he replied. Maggie never woke up, once the seizure was over, continued to sleep seemingly unaware of the seizure. He held her in his arms, both of them soon asleep.

Like most nights, Maggie climbed into our bed at some point in the night, probably between midnight and two. Hazel woke up from hearing us. She, too, climbed in, whispering, “Breathe! Breathe!” imitating Andy’s urgent tone. I got up with Hazel, worried that she would wake up Maggie when Maggie needed more rest. We left the room, picking up milk, cream, and coffee from the kitchen before retiring to the playroom.

Historical context aside (a topic for another post on another day), Thanksgiving today is meant to be a day of feasting, togetherness, and gratitude. For some of us, it may be difficult to find the words or even the feeling of gratitude. 2020 did a number on most of us, and to now celebrate a holiday traditionally spent with multigenerational family with only the immediate members of our household feels sad. A virtual Thanksgiving is not the same, and I don’t see any reason to pretend it is. Like the rest of 2020, Thanksgiving this year is uniquely characteristic of the rest of the challenges we have faced collectively.

On mornings like this, it is hard to find an attitude of gratitude. My head can start swimming with a whirlwind of negative emotions, especially fear of Sudden Unexpected Death from Epilepsy (SUDEP). SUDEP is an extended seizure that stops breathing and goes on long enough to cause death. It is a real possibility and the thought terrifies me. I become angry about Maggie’s condition, wallowing in the unfairness of it all. I believe based on her body language that she experiences pain from headaches, but I don’t know. She can’t tell me. I worry about her quality of life when she’s older, like what would happen to her as an adult if she never learns to talk or if she is unable to take care of herself. I could continue to spiral into the what-ifs, but I’ll cut myself off there.

I am grateful for Maggie. Maggie teaches me new levels of patience and understanding, every day. Maggie makes me reconsider countless daily activities that I have never given a second thought to until I realized I needed to teach these things to my child. I am grateful for when Maggie melts into my arms and lets me hold her and rock her. I am grateful for all of the many professionals who are teamed together to help give Maggie her best shot. I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this very special child.

I am grateful for Hazel. Hazel is my very special almost-two-year-old (her birthday is tomorrow), who makes me laugh daily with her silliness. She is the comic relief of our household. She is my brown-eyed mini-me, and she follows me around everywhere imitating just about everything I do. I am grateful for the joy that she exudes when she spontaneously breaks into a dance or sings Frozen melodies or starts laughing for no explicable reason, the kind of laugh that inevitably causes everyone to laugh the way a yawn can spread.

Most of all, I am grateful for my husband, Andy. He is everything that I could’ve ever hoped for in a husband. He is my partner, my lover, my best friend, the father of my children, and the greatest support I could’ve asked for. I can be completely vulnerable with him and sob shamelessly into his arms when the challenges feel exceptionally heavy, and I can be the big spoon in bed when he wants to be held. The love and support we experience with each other give us the strength to face whatever challenges life throws our way.

I’m not just grateful for my immediate family. I am grateful for all of the people that I love. I am grateful for our family and friends. Even though you may be far, you are still very much in my heart and prayers. I am grateful for my community and hope to get to know it soon. I am grateful for our country, and I pray we will unify and heal as a nation of Americans, recovering from COVID and discord.

I am grateful for clean laundry and hot showers. I am grateful for a home. I am grateful for the words to write. I am grateful for the smell of my morning cup of coffee, and I savor every sip. I am grateful for food, not just nourishment but the joy of cooking and the joy of eating. I am grateful for the strength, that my body continues to thrive with regular exercise. I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to read my writing. I am grateful for my husband’s opportunities at the USNA and a chance for a new start in Maryland. I am grateful for music and the sounds of nature when I walk outside with my children and my dog. I am grateful for books and my love for reading. I am grateful for sunrises and sunsets, for the air in my lungs, for the time that I have. I am grateful for my life.

For this Thanksgiving, my prayer is that even amid personal challenges, uncertainty, and whatever may be your circumstances, my prayer is that within your life, you find opportunities for gratitude. I pray that everyone can find something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and hold on to the feeling of gratitude. Hold on to an attitude of gratitude, even when faced with hardship, loneliness, and heartache. Hold on to an attitude of gratitude, for the big things and small. Sometimes, the simple pleasures of life, like slow-sipping morning coffee, can set off the gratitude needed to get through the day.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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