I hadn’t been back ‘home’ to Connecticut in three years. But I traveled up a week ago to visit my sister, whose husband passed away recently. While I was there my son, Michael, marked another ‘heavenly birthday.’

My sister never misses a birthday or holiday for my family at the cemetery, and this day was no different. As we headed out on the thirty-minute drive, our mood was upbeat despite the overcast day and the chill in the air. When we arrived at Michael’s grave, the stark reality of my son’s name engraved in the granite headstone sucked the air out of my lungs. After all these years, my eyes filled with tears and the pain of grief stormed my soul like it was yesterday. Nanci and I stood there motionless for a while swallowing our sobs.

When I was able to breathe again, I found myself filled with silent prayers of gratitude. I was grateful for the three and a half years that I had with this happy, funny, inquisitive child. I was grateful that his short life was blessed and that he brought us such joy. I was grateful I didn’t get angry when he drew pictures for me all over our bedroom walls in orange crayon. And, today, I am grateful that I have reached a point where grief has its moments, but it no longer rules my life.

The Bible tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:18) Giving thanks is one of God’s gifts to heal us, to lift our spirits, to get our lives back on track and to keep them there. Gratitude was a key to my healing and continues to comfort me and lift me up. No one is grateful for the losses and tragedies of life, but we can be grateful for happy moments of the before and after. We can all be grateful for gratitude.

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it brings peace for today, and creates a hope for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

Happy Birthday, Michael, and thank you for the precious memories that fill my life with moments of gratitude. I love you always and forever.

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