Gratitude or Madness: I choose the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving. I was having a dark, depressing night. 5 weeks earlier my 7 1/2 month old son had shockingly, unexpectedly passed away at the hospital from a heart disorder called Kawasaki Disease. It was the last thing my husband and I expected. We brought home this joy filled baby when he was two days old and were in preparation to adopt him. It’s the kind of grief that makes any adult person shudder. People don’t know what to say.
I work with the public and have lots of casual relationships there. Many people still come in smiling and excited to see the new picture or talk about how he’s grown. When I tell them what’s happened they’re usually so upset that I have to comfort them. I was thinking of this and other thoughts as the sun went down Thanksgiving Eve.
My family was visiting from New York but Mom got sick so they stayed at the hotel that night. My husband was also laid out with a stomach flu. It was as if the world was conspiring to have me sit in the dark and experience PTSD alone at the dining room table. Images of my son’s final hour were haunting me. Hospital sounds, lights flashing, the doctor who finally called it… bringing his way-too-short life to an end. Images that could drive me mad.
Lately it has become more important then ever to remember the advice I was told as a child - that I have to be careful who I hang out with. This includes myself. My head can be a dangerous place if I’m traveling that neighborhood alone. Unless I remember the spiritual truth.
On the day after Thanksgiving I woke up and made a gratitude list. Gratitude lists have almost become cliche, sobriety and spiritual practice 101, but this one seemed quite crucial. I know it’s a choice to focus on what’s good in my life. A choice I have control over. I’ve never had more reason to slip to the dark side or more people telling me that it’s okay if it's what I need to do. The thing is, I don’t like feeling bad. I can’t imagine my son wants me to remember the worst of it either. I wrote my list and shared it with a comrade and slowly started to shift.
I know I’m a better man this holiday season because of the experience of being a father. My heart was cracked open and a light burst out that I truly didn’t know was possible. I get to choose what I focus on. It doesn’t mean I won’t be sad or have traumatic memories... but I do get to decide how long I stay there. The faster I shine light on them, simply by telling another person, someone else on a spiritual path, the faster I find my way back home; to the spiritual truth - my truth.