The pies are in the oven and the cranberry salad is made. My notes are all ready, reminding me of the order in which to prepare tomorrow’s meal, a necessity when I have one small oven and five things that need baked. My family is healthy, aside from a lingering chest cold that Mark and I are sharing, and we are warm and safe under a sturdy roof. I can pay my bills. I can feed my family. I don’t worry about being homeless. I don’t feel unsafe.
I might not have the fanciest of things, but I have the best of things. Four years (and a handful of months ago) I almost didn’t have my youngest child. Everything that I ever knew, everything that I ever thought I knew, was changed the moment the flight nurse said to me, “Yes, there is a chance that you are truly saying goodbye.” I had never felt so scared, so incredibly desperate in all of my thirty-four years. A piece of who I was lifted from the roof of that hospital that day, flew away and never returned. And as I stood there in the parking lot, my body still aching from the process of a surgical birth and feeling an emptiness that I can never explain, I knew that nothing in my life was ever going to be the same.
When I brought that sweet boy home, I had no idea what life had in store for me, but I knew that I had been given the most remarkable gift and I was overwhelmed with thanksgiving the moment we unbuckled him from his car seat and walked him into his home. Sure, since then there have been hard times. Incredibly difficult times, but when you’ve kissed your child goodbye…I mean, goodbye in the most final sense…and then God gives you more time? Even the most difficult moments are at the very least tinged with thanksgiving. At least we are all going through it together, this rag-tag little family of mine.
And over these years, my thanksgiving has never waned. Even when the time between hospitalizations became longer and stability became something I believed in. I have never ever stopped being thankful for the smallest of blessings. I’ve never taken any of it for granted. In fact, Corrigan’s struggles, his fight to overcome the catastrophe that befell him due to that stupid inborn error, have just made me understand that the smallest of achievements are really the biggest victories in the history of the world.
Parents of children with special needs feel thanksgiving flow through their bloodstream. We feel it in the strangled word that suddenly bursts forth from our child’s mouth after months of speech therapy. We feel it when the tiniest bite of food is chewed and successfully swallowed after years of being tube fed. We feel it when our sweet little miracle smiles her first crooked smile, or moves himself to his hands and knees and crawls for the first time at age six. We are overwhelmed with thanksgiving when they wake from anesthesia after their seventh surgery, and cheer out loud when the doctor casually mentions that they have finally made the 25th percentile on the growth chart.
We see the smallest achievements as gold star moments and we never ever forget where they came from. How far they’ve come. These moments sustain us and propel us forward when the path seems so hard to travel. The thousands of whispered, “thank you’s” that we have muttered to our God over the years, fly towards the heavens like butterflies and we never forget where we could be. We never forget where we came from. We never ever forget to be thankful. Another day. Another chance.
Tomorrow I will sit at the table and Corrigan will be in the chair beside me, wearing his Indian hat and not eating a single bite of food. Mark will ask a beautiful blessing and maul the turkey when he carves it. Connor will dig into the mashed potatoes with vigor and crack silly jokes. We will have other loved ones join us and there will be laughing and second-helpings and pumpkin pie with whipped topping, and I will look around the table and probably cry. My life might not be perfect, it might not even be close to the life you would choose for yourself, but it is a great one.
Truly, I am blessed.