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Not Thankful For... But Thankful In

November….deemed the month of thankfulness. While I understand the seasonal focus on being thankful at this time of year….are we just supposed to limit being thankful and grateful to this month alone? I’m assuming most of us would vehemently answer no…but I’m just going to real and honest right now. I’m struggling to even be thankful and grateful right now. Some of you might find that to be a horrific confession, even though you know of the difficult circumstances that have come to pass in my life over the last year. I know that there are many things in my to be thankful for….but I’m facing spending the first holidays without my son. I am dreading those days more than most of you can understand. I used to LOVE the holidays and look forward to the time to be spent with all of my family and the memories that would be made. This year, it’s so overwhelming to me to think that I will never be able to spend Thanksgiving with my boy. I will never get to watch him enjoy his Thanksgiving dinner complete with a massive blob of mashed potatoes and an ice cold glass of milk. I will never again hear him say….”I’m in a food coma.” ….his saying after consuming an entirely enormous amount of food as he planted himself on the couch and closed his eyes.

Thankful is really one of the last words I’m thinking of at this point. I’m not thankful that my son died. I’m not thankful that this Thanksgiving is going to be excruciatingly painful..and that I will have to figure out how to celebrate the family I have with me in the midst of my pain and hurt. Grief is so complicated and it’s never the same one day as it is on another. It’s an extreme fluctuation and a range of emotions that overlap and intertwine themselves within you. It’s the intertwining and the overlapping that cause confusion, anger, and utter despair. Trying to balance all of those emotions all together at one time is completely overwhelming.

My myriad of emotions has been the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with and it’s been hard on the people that are closest to me…because I know that I haven’t been easy to live with. With that said, I can’t even imagine the influx of emotions, memories, and triggers that will consume me on Thanksgiving Day. I’m actually a little scared of how I’m going to feel, of where it will take me, and of the unexpecteded memories that may pop up and how I will react to those and the day itself. For the first time in my life, I’m scared of the holidays. I now understand how the holidays are painful for many….I didn’t understand that until last year when we celebrated our first Thanksgiving without my brother. But now, I even have a better understanding of how painful the holidays will be with the loss of my son. Honestly, I’m not even sure how to get through the next 6-7 weeks.

So while I’m struggling with “being thankful for”, I was kind of given a new perspective the other night at a bible study. As we were talking about why we should give thanks to God, many of us thought about different things….give thanks because He’s God….because of what He’s done for us….for dying for us and redeeming us. And then the discussion turned to how we feel when our kids show gratitude to us for something that we do….how that makes us feel. I think God feels somewhat like that too when we show gratitude to Him IN everything….even when it’s hard. I Thessolonians 5:18 require us to “Give thanks IN all circumstances”. I had never noticed the word IN before….that one little word changes so much. During this tragic time of my life…I have oh so struggled with being thankful for the deaths that have taken place in my life. I’ve struggled with being thankful for the impact it has had on my family. I have struggled with being thankful that both my brother and my son died at such an early age. I have not been the pristine example of Accepting God’s will and trusting that will. I have failed miserably at being the perfect Christian because I have doubted and questioned my creator.

But, this , this also makes me mean me think about how angry our kids get at us for being their parent at times, but as they grow older, they develop an appreciation, an understanding of, and a gratitude for the things that we did that they disagreed with. Sometimes thankfulness and gratitude develop over time…as we grow wiser and we begin to understand more. Right now I can’t imagine ever understanding why my son had to die so young, but as we talked in our Bible study, the pastor said…”We may not be able to be thankful FOR certain things that have taken place in our lives….but we can learn to be thankful in our trials. How?? I don’t know….but I’m trying to learn.

As i I have reflected upon being thankful in tragedy…..I’ve come up with a few thoughts:

* I’m thankful in the knowledge that my son knew that I loved him with all of my heart.

* I’m thankful in knowing that I was blessed with his life for 23 years.

* I’m thankful in knowing that he was a caring person.

* I am thankful in the knowledge that I got to spend 23 years with him and his sister and that we were able to spend about 10 of those years with Katie and Sarah as his new sisters.

*I am thankful in the knowledge that Aaron had a strong bond with his cousins and my brother and sister-in-law.

*Im thankful in the knowledge that Aaron turned back to his Savior before his death.

* I am thankful in the knowledge that so many people saw the compassionate Aaron and the positive Aaron that was determined to make it through challenging situations.

* I’m thankful in the knowedge that Aaron always had his grandparents who beleived in him.

* I’m thankful in the knowledge that I have people to help me through these holidays and will help me honor Aaron and Steve’s absence.

* I’m thankful in the knowledge that I have wonderful loved to share this day with even if it might be difficult…my husband, Tom …our daughters….Taylor, Katie, and Sarah…our son-in-law to be…Thomas….our grandkids…Eli, Addi, and Lailah….my parents…Barbara and Richard…my brother and his family….Mike, Samantha, Eli, Aleah, Kayleigh, Ashley and Shaun, and Emily and Willie…Steve’s family….Susan, Zach, Jeremy, and Sawyer.

So while I might not be thankful FOR what has taken place….I am choosing to be thankful IN what I do have.

Happy Thanksgiving to all….but especially to our angels in heaven….Steve and Aaron!

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