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Grief and Gratitude

I don’t like to think of myself as greedy, but it does occur to me that I want a lot. A whole lot. As in, maybe too much to ask for. I want a long, full, rich life. And I want all my friends and loved ones—including you—to have long, full, rich lives.

What I’ve noticed lately is that I’m afraid I’ll miss out. I recently lost a few people who were near and dear to me.

Empty chairsOne was 86 years old. He had a long, rich, full life and knew it. He seemed satisfied with his life, but he would have happily welcomed more. He was my father-in-law, and I can’t begin to express how much richer my life is because of his life and the way he lived it.

Another person I lost was half my father-in-law’s age and died suddenly. She lived a rich, full life, but it was much too short for me to get to know her as I would have liked. My life was richer and fuller because of my brief acquaintance with her.

I’ve also lost two of my brothers recently. They were younger than I, and they missed out on some things that I hold dear. It makes me sad to think that their lives might not have been as rich and full, and certainly not as long, as I would have liked. And, again, my life is richer for having been their sister.

Grieving is a curious experience. I find myself feeling sad and tired. And then I find myself wanting to reach out and go for the gusto—do the things I’ve always wanted to do, go the places I’ve always wanted to go, live life to the fullest. And there’s also the realization of what I don’t want. I don’t want to lose any more friends and loved ones.

I keep everything. I’m not a hoarder, but I don’t let go of stuff easily, and I feel especially determined to keep my friends and loved ones. The odd thing is that when I hold on too tightly—to people or to stuff—my life feels less full. When I enjoy the moment, enjoy the presence of others, even when I experience the sadness and grief and confusion, my life is richer, fuller, better. As far as how long a life ought to be, that’s a mystery. It can seem very long indeed, and yet, no matter how long, it’s the blink of an eye.

Thanksgiving is next week, and I’m thinking about gratitude. Gratitude for life in all its mystery and confusion and grief and grace. I’m so lucky. I wish you much to be grateful for and a very happy Thanksgiving celebration.