This morning when I got to work, my buddy Cathy was on the phone, so I quietly snuck in behind her and placed the coffee I had picked up for her on the way in on her desk. She turned around and gave me the most adorable look and a big smile, like she was excited that I had finally arrived. I walked away smiling too, knowing she would probably bring that coffee into my office with her after she got off the phone, and we would take a few minutes to catch up and chat, the way we often do when I get to work on slow quiet mornings.
As I walked into my office and logged into my computer for the day, I thought about Cathy and the rest of my friends and family, and how wonderful they are, individually and as a group.
And I thought, “I love my life.”
A split second after that thought began, though, another overlapped it.
And instantly I felt guilty. Now, realize, I understand logically that you can both love the life and blessings you have been given without betraying the brother for whom you are still grieving, but logic doesn’t always apply in grief. (Or, ever apply in grief?) It was a betrayal! I don’t love everything about my life! A huge part of it is pretty darn sad right now, and on some days the hole in my heart seems to stretch so big that I can barely feel anything but emptiness.
But even so, both feelings seem to find their way into my heart, the grief and the joy, co-existing and intertwining and awing and confusing me all at once. (And making me feel guilty sometimes too, apparently.)
My brother died, but I am surrounded by friends who love and support me, making me laugh or leaving me alone or wrapping their arms around me, depending in what I need at the moment.
My brother died, but his perfectly-matched wife still seems to want me in her life and I am probably closer to her now than most anyone in the world.
My brother died, but his son is growing and learning and thriving and filling me with love beyond my wildest imagination.
My brother died, but my family still loves and cherishes each other, not fighting over anything. I don’t take that for granted for one second after seeing two different parts of my family fall apart after loved ones died. Despite the years that have passed, many members don’t even speak anymore. That won’t be Shane’s legacy, and for that I am infinitely thankful.
My brother died, but he will be waiting for me in heaven one day, and that thought makes me look forward to it more than I ever thought possible. He made heaven as real for me as a neighboring town that I just haven’t visited yet. He made death 100% not scary. I’m good to go.
I thought maybe this Thanksgiving we might have a hard time finding things to be thankful for after all the hell we jut went through, but it’s just not the case.
Yes, there is grief. And sadness and unfairness and emptiness.
But also so, so much to be thankful for.