Have you made your gratitude list yet? I remember the first time I ever heard about such a thing; a gratitude list.
I had been at the hospital with my oldest son for about a month at that point and yet, the doctors couldn’t tell me what was wrong with him. It started on January 16, 2005.
We were celebrating his tenth birthday and had gone to a pizza place he had chosen to have dinner. However, he was already sick. He had been feeling weak and tired most of the time and I thought it was due to a long walk he had taken with his aunt. During his little birthday party, the fever started, and that’s when the nightmare began.
At this point, February 2010, he had been at the hospital for the third time, and each of those times for different reasons. When he was treated for what the doctors thought he had, he would get better and then be sent home. About three days later, we were walking into the hospital AGAIN with a whole list of other symptoms that would lead to a new diagnosis.
It was like entering a dead-end street every time. I was exhausted. Tired from sleepless weeks, trying to hold on to my new found faith, but falling into despair as I watched my ten year old son get worse and worse every day. We had a group of well certified doctors and none of them could explain what was going on. My son was dying.
Unexpectedly, my friend Gia stopped by the hospital to see how we were doing. She wanted to check on me and make sure I was keeping it together. I had known her from a meeting only a few months ago and I remember how her spirituality hit me then. She won my admiration the minute I met her and the empathy I felt was immediate. We became friends in spite of our age difference and she became an incredible role model for me.
We sat down in front of my son’s bed while he was sleeping and talked. Gia shared her strength and positive view of life and situations, so that it felt almost normal to be where I was at that moment. Soon it was time for her to leave and we said our goodbyes. As she walked to the hallway, she turned around and asked, “Have you made your gratitude list yet?”
“My gratitude list?” I replied.
“Yes, your gratitude list. A list of all the things you feel thankful for today”.
For a moment, I thought she was joking. I was there, at the hospital, for about a month now, my son dying. Nothing was working, doctors didn’t know what else to do and my two year old baby was with my mother because I couldn’t be at home with him. Now here was Gia asking what I felt thankful for?
Then she continued. “There is always something to be thankful for and in your case, being in this situation, now more than ever you need to remind yourself of all the blessings you have in your life or you will easily forget them. Make a list of at least ten things you are thankful for today. It can’t be less than ten. I know it will be hard at first, but once you connect with the gratitude in your heart reasons to be grateful will pour out”. Then she left.
I remember sitting in front of the hospital bed with my little notebook, my mind totally blank. I kept thinking about it over and over. And just as she told me, reasons to be thankful starting to pour out of my heart. As I wrote on the piece of paper, I broke down and cried.
I kept making that list every day while at the hospital for the following two months we spent there, as well as when we took him to a Hospital in Minnesota for six weeks that following summer.
The gratitude list became my best therapy at some of my worst moments. When changing jobs, getting a divorce or coping with the health crisis my son had in the following years.
What my friend never told me was that the gratitude list would pull me out of the dark hole of self-pity that hard times and circumstances would push me into. It sent a new strength throughout my veins and helped me remember that there are amazing blessings in my life.
I came from a family that had been close enough to help me cope with the worst moments of my life, to incredible friends who have accompanied me and believed in me when I could barely believe in myself; through great opportunities and professional accomplishments. One of those blessings is that my son is still with me.
It’s been nine years since then. He is now nineteen, his health is very stable and he is full of dreams and plans. He too learned to write his gratitude list during that painful process. We have learned to see the cup half-full instead of half-empty.
How about you? Have you made your gratitude list yet?