Tuesday, February 7, 2012

being grateful

Last week a neighbor had a stroke. When the ambulance and fire engines swooped to a stop just past our house, I worried. I put on a coat and walked over. Paramedics took my neighbor away and left behind--for a few minutes at least--a family shaken and weeping, not knowing what the outcome would be. It was heart-breaking to watch. My neighbor survived, and she is supported by a great family--so those are the good parts. Her husband and sons shaved their heads so she wouldn't feel so sad about having her head shaved for the surgery that stopped the bleeding. One of her daughters told me that she had never seen her mom without hair to her waist, so this is a shock to the grown children and, probably, to my neighbor.

The hard thing is that she is having to learn to speak, and eat, and use her left side again--and these are long, slow, difficult processes. The oldest daughter started a blog so we could keep up on her mom's progress (great things, these blogs); yesterday's post said that the day had been a discouraging one. They had hoped to move from ICU to a rehab facility, but couldn't yet. Each day, there are pictures--ones I'm sure my neighbor will want removed when she is feeling better but ones that help us understand the challenges she is going through.

I have found myself reflecting on my neighbor's experience throughout this week. I have thought about how difficult times draw friends, family, and neighbors together. Or can. I thought of the end of To Kill a Mockingbird: "Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between." We have exchanged Christmas goodies with these neighbors for years. We see them at church each week and exchange pleasantries. Their boys have sometimes shoveled the snow from the sidewalk in front of our house. I have ached for them this week,standing in their shoes--on their porch, so to speak--knowing the multitude of changes that will come into their lives as a result of this event. I think they will be okay; it will take time, but they are already expressing gratitude for what they have gained from the experience.

I have thought a lot about how quickly life can change, how plans can be swept away through accidents, illness, inexplicable tragedy, and how, when those things occur, what we thought mattered isn't really the important thing anymore. More than ever, I have thought about being grateful for what I have, right now. For the gifts of the day: being startled by the deer bounding out of a neighbor's yard and prancing down the road past my car; seeing the stark white snow on the mountain tops against the bright blue morning sky; finding a parking space. Being grateful for the stuff I take for granted like food and water and warmth and work and love. So much.


  1. Your words are so true. Life changes in a moment and we don't always appreciate what we have until tragedy strikes. Thanks for the reminder to be grateful for what we do have.

  2. Your post sounds so loving and caring for your neighbor & I'm glad you're taking advantage for yourself by learning to be thankful all over again. My husband & I have gone through some big challenges in the past few years because he is ill, but we take each day we have & are grateful for those. Thank you for reminding everyone to do that. I wish the best for your neighbor's recovery.

  3. My uncle had a stroke like this many years ago. He only says a few words now (this varies by each person with a stroke). Since the stroke, we have always had a special bond. At my grandpa's funeral, I held my uncle's hand and said "I love you," and he said "I love you" back! It was such a special moment, and I realized the most important thing, even though he can't speak, is that he can feel and understand and give love. I'm sure your neighbor is grateful for your love too.