Giving thanks has been something that I have been thinking a lot about today. Where would I be if it were not for people close to me, and even complete strangers who have helped shaped the events of the past 12 months. There have been many moments of sadness interspersed with moments of great joy. Becoming a widower is not something that you plan for, it just happens. Life is a journey, never promised to be an easy path.
I’m thankful to my band of brothers, Scott, Chris and Kevin for remaining with me into the wee hours of the night that last night before Lori passed away that Tuesday morning. I’m thankful to Scott’s wife Darla, having experience in long term care, to see the signs and allow for Scott to be there with me at the hospital for those last 15 hours.
I’m thankful for my friend Stephanie for getting Lori to laugh for one final time, telling her that she would kick my butt if I didn’t behave after she was gone.
I’m thankful for my parents, my brother Carl and his wife Courtney and Lori’s Aunt Eugenia for coming to my house after I left the hospital and just being there with me for a few hours when the pain was the most raw. The last thing I needed at that time was to go home to an empty house.
I’m thankful that my brother Carl, 11 years my junior, suddenly became by biggest defender and protector during those first days.
I’m thankful that my brother Clark was able to make the trip to California and sitting in my family room, quiet at times, talking at times. Even in those dark moments, we managed to laugh at times up until 3 AM to Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. Ours was a relationship that had gone stagnant and was reborn during the time of loss.
I’m thankful for my brother Clay, who actually approached Lori’s casket at the funeral home with his son. When both of our grandmothers passed away, he never did that.
I’m thankful that Lori’s funeral director was a friend and didn’t treat it as a business transaction.
I’m thankful for the words that Lori’s Aunt Paula shared with me after the funeral service that Lori’s father had shared with his brother Dennis that I had done a good job of taking care of Lori. Those were words I needed to hear.
I’m thankful for Tom and Coleeta Cash, who helped craft my first getaway after the funeral. My new love for the outdoors was born on that trip to the Soo, along with a reborn love for strawberry rhubarb pie.
I’m thankful for strangers in the hotel bar at the Ramada Inn in Grayling, Michigan. I met a widow and widower in the hotel bar that had just gotten married four months prior, giving me hope for the future.
I’m thankful for pool parties at my house last summer. Nieces and nephews make life more tolerable.
I’m thankful for time in Tahoe with my brother’s family and building relationships with my brother’s family. Added bonus, I climbed a mountain.
I’m thankful for time spent with my friend Becky in San Diego. We had an instant connection back when we worked for Sunrise. There were many tears shared on that visit. I’m even more thankful for that friendship.
I’m thankful for friends far and wide from California to Washington to Georgia to Texas to British Columbia to Michigan and even down the street. You have made a difference. Your encouragement has been invaluable.
I’m thankful for complete strangers, whom I’ve never met in person, who have discovered me through Facebook, who have talked about me inspiring them. Thank you for interacting with me and sharing your experiences. I’m richer because of it.
I’m thankful that I have become a “go-to” babysitter for my brother Clay and wife Erin. It’s been exhausting and rewarding. When you have kids sleeping overnight at your house, I don’t think one ever really sleeps.
I’m thankful for ladies I’ve known since childhood, Stephanie, Dawn and Amy, who have lost spouses, and have been incredible sources of encouragement.
I’m thankful for the Hodson/Collier clan for officially adopting me and inviting me to family events. You make me feel like family.
I’m thankful for relationships that have started forming with Vandeventer cousins. Growing up, our family dynamic did not allow for this. Sadly one of these relationships started because of loss similar to mine. That cousin and I are planning a trip to Colorado in the fall. I think Grandma and Grandpa would be proud.
I’m thankful for Lori’s memory. She may have left this earth, she never left my heart.
I’m thankful for tears.
I’m thankful for life.
Live your life giving thanks.