Monday, November 30, 2009

Finding Sunshine on Cloudy Days

Myree was a beautiful and happy woman with a big smile that she wore often. She had five growing children and lived in a modest little home just around the corner from me. Her disposition was sunny even with the gray cloud that loomed over her life. Myree had cancer. And every time they thought that she had beat it, they found that it had returned again.
It seemed unfair as I watched her arrive at church with a scarf on her head to cover her radiation induced hair loss. It didn't seem right that someone so kind with a young family should have to endure such an experience. But, if she agreed with my opinion she never showed it. The only emotion that I saw her focusing on was gratitude.

I remember clearly hearing Myree express her gratitude for her dishwasher. Up until her cancer had struck she had happily lived life doing her dishes by hand (most of us can't imagine going without a dishwasher anymore!) But, with the onset of her illness her family saw that she would be free to spend more time with those she loved and focusing on what was important if she didn't have all those dishes to do by hand. So, her siblings pitched in and bought her a dishwasher. She was so grateful.

In fact, she seemed to always be grateful. She kept notebooks full of gratitude. Each night she would record five things about her day that she was thankful for...
Grateful that I watched home movies with my husband while we held hands
Grateful to work on a quilt for my son
Grateful that a friend called today
Grateful for my dishwasher

And so on and so on. She was grateful for the seemingly small things in life, when her kids enjoyed dinner with her, when they prayed together, when the weather was nice. And though Myree eventually lost her physical battle with cancer I think that in many ways she won it too. At her funeral each of her children spoke about her. They expressed their love and gratitude for her to an abundant crowd of people. Her husband read a few entries from her gratitude journal. The moments that he shared were not profound, they were simple daily occurences. She had truly found the ability to appreciate life and live it with joy even in the midst of sorrow. I exchanged only a few words with her husband that day. I told him what a great woman she was. He gave me hug and told me "she was so grateful for your friendship"

I went home that night, got out a blank journal, and wrote down five things that I was grateful for before I went to bed. I felt happy. The next night I did the same. And for years that followed I did that every night. I found myself looking for things as I went about my day that I might write down that night. I began to notice the little joys that were filling my life. Those little things became the big things that life was centered around and although my circumstances did not change my happiness grew.

And sometimes when I am complaining about life in general I think of Myree. And I remind myself to pick up that gratitude journal and start finding all the sunshine even on the most cloudy days. What five things are you most grateful for today?

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