Sunday, November 18, 2012

Article #7: "Gratitude"

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I have found great delight in the “30 Days of Gratitude” that has consumed the social media outlets. Facebook and Twitter have become platforms of various “thanks,” and even I have joined the masses and followed suit. Each day I post something that I am thankful for: my husband, my children, my salvation, my parents, my job...the list is certainly longer than a mere “30 days.”

This morning as I was posting day ten, I allowed myself to go back to a moment in time, not so long ago, where the true meaning of gratitude and thankfulness was displayed in a way that was most unforgettable.

Two years ago on a Thursday evening, July 29th, my family experienced a greater sorrow than we had ever known. My brother, Cal Fine, passed away very unexpectedly at the age of thirty-one. As if the death of a loved one was not tragic enough, my brother's death happened on the same day that my mother and my father were forced to move from their beloved home of over twenty-six years due to my father's quickly progressing illness. In a way, my mother was already experiencing a "death," having spent the entire summer packing up years of home making and family memories. Just as she began to feel peace and had begun to unpack her new life, she received a phone call that her only son was gone.

My brother left behind two small babies and the love of his life, waiting for him to heal from a terrible disease, but not a disease that people diefrom, so "shock" is an understatement.

I vividly remember the drive home from the VA Hospital in Columbia. It was a late summer evening, and yet it seemed so cold. It was difficult for me to process leaving my brother behind and never seeing him again. I allowed my mind to drift to the move. Just hours earlier friends and family had gathered, moving boxes, organizing dishes, sorting through clothing. There was still so much at the old home that needed to be done. The old home needed to be cleaned, dusted, vacuumed, bathrooms scrubbed; and there were still so many boxes to be brought from the old house to the new. But it was the last thing on any of our minds.

Pulling up to my mother's new home, the darkness of the night enveloped the sky. Cars lined the street outside the new house, and every light within was brightly shining. As I entered the house, my parents’ closest friends, along with my mother's sister and her daughter were seated in the kitchen. Silence was thick within the room, and then I heard my mother's anguished cries. Helplessness. It is the worst feeling in the world, and it consumed every part of me in that moment. All my mother wanted was her son, and I couldn't give him to her. My heart was broken.

After a long night of tossing and turning and pleading with God, the morning finally arrived. The sky was still dark. Clouds covered every inch, and the rain pelted the windows of my room. Tears from the heavens; it seemed so appropriate.

A long, hot, shower seemed to soothe my weary soul, and I drove to my parents’ new home. My father was sitting at the kitchen table, boxes towered high around him, and dishes wrapped in packing paper lined the counter tops. My mother was still sleeping in her bed, temporarily soothed with a sedative that I had asked our family doctor for the night before. I sat at the table with my father; neither of us said a word. We sat for a moment, allowing the quiet to penetrate us, watching the rain, listening to the sounds of the new home.

I heard the door of my parents’ bedroom creak open, and my mother shuffled into the kitchen. Her eyes were swollen, her face pale, her shoulders sagged with a heaviness that no doubt was weighing on her heart too.

"Do you see them?" she whispered..."look out the window."

I turned my eyes to the window that my father and I had been looking out of just moments before, and there they were...

"Who are they?" I asked.

"They are my students!" my mother cried, and my eyes filled with tears once again.

You see, the news of my brother’s death traveled the social network of Facebook the night before, and my mother, who has been a teacher for over forty years, was the topic of many "status updates.” A group of my mother's students, both present and past had rallied together and early that morning, in the cold and stinging rain, they carried boxes from the old house to the new house. With the guidance and help of their parents and close friends of my parents, they dusted and vacuumed the old house. Throughout the morning’s work, they came in one by one with heartfelt hugs to share.

It was an incredible sight. It was an incredible feeling. It was...just incredible.

There has been a great loss and great suffering in my family. But there has been an even greater healing, greater friendships, and greater love and support shown to us than any of us could ever have imagined. The gratitude our family has for the friends and students who came together in our time of need and sorrow is everlasting.


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