Holidays have not been my favorite for the last six years or so. Hanging six stockings instead of seven and filling one less Easter basket is enough to make me want to sleep through the day all together. But I have four children who would not dare let me stay in bed during their waking hours so I have learned to face reality and scale holidays back to what I can handle. Since losing our daughter, I don't have it in me to manage the craziness of big parties and the hustle and bustle of all the holiday happenings that made up our life before.
But Thanksgiving I can do. Actually I think I'm pretty good at it.
If there is one thing that losing a child has taught me it is to be thankful.
I struggled with this in the beginning, the thought of being thankful when I was bitter and felt cheated out of a lifetime with my daughter, but her last breath left me with an understanding of the fragility of life that will forever change the way I cherish the lives around me.
I wake up every day thankful down to my toes to have a house full of living, breathing children because I know things could have turned out much differently. Of course there are days they can push my patience to limits I never realized I had, but in every tantrum, mess or sibling argument there is always a moment when my mind quiets and I am reminded that I am lucky for the simple fact that they are alive.
The gratitude I now have for life is hard to explain. I have watched life stop when I had no idea that it would, to watch it go on and on each day never ceases to amaze me.
When I put my kids down to sleep at night I am very aware of the fact there are moms out there who pass by an empty nursery each day that they have never been able to use but can't bear to take down and when my husband is running late from work I immediately run through my head to our last conversation to make sure I told him I loved him and the answer is always yes, because I never forget. I dish out I love you's like candy in this house.
Sometimes I wonder if it is morbid to think this way, to live each day like it could be the last, but it has become the only way to find peace for us.
I don't think I will ever look back and regret living my days so consciously, reminding myself often that all I have is to be cherished.
I don't think my children will look back and be sad that the dishes were piled in the sink while we were all playing hide and seek or that Mommy and Daddy ran to them a little too quickly and smothered them with kisses if they got hurt because we were a tad on the paranoid side.
I think, at least I hope, that we are building our family with a contagious amount of love and gratitude and a deep appreciation for the fact that Thanksgiving is the one holiday we have in the bag.