Today is Thanksgiving Eve. It’s time to count our blessings and pause in gratitude.
I look back over the past year on this Thanksgiving eve and I am grateful that I was born an American. I am grateful that God placed me in the adoring hands of two parents who never placed limits on me because I was female, who didn’t try to form me into a half-person who knew her “place” at the back of the bus.
I am grateful for my grandmother who was a Pentecostal Holiness preacher. She was a “church planter” who started and succored into success churches throughout a multi-state area and who had a huge following for her weekly radio sermons. She gave me a vision of God as Father to all His children, including the female half of the people He made.
I am grateful for my other grandmother whose grandparents lived in the South and fought on the side of the North in the Civil War because they saw slavery as a sin against God. I am grateful that she lived long enough to tell me stories of pioneering across this great land, of following the frontier as it receded before the courage of people like her.
I am grateful for my wonderful husband whose loyalty I never doubt, and whose forbearance I often sorely test. When I walked in the house and told him I had cancer, he cried. Then, he went with me to every doctor’s appointment and every treatment. He took time off work to take care of me when I was too sick to care for myself. He loved me. He loves me. He is my spouse, my life’s mate.
I am grateful for my fine sons. I am grateful for the good men they have become. I am grateful for the loving, good-to-the-core young women, my two new daughters, they have chosen for their own life’s mates. My children are good people. My most important life’s work is a success.
I am grateful for my sweet, precious, 91-year-old baby, my mother. I love her and treasure her and am grateful I still have her every single day.
I am grateful for my beautiful, wonderful baby granddaughter. I can’t think of her without melting, can’t write about her without smiling. Just holding her in my arms is everything good in life in one sweet baby hug. She is, as I tell her often, the smartest, the prettiest, the nicest, the sweetest and just the best baby girl in the whole history of baby girls.
This has been a rotten year for me, at least in most respects. There are parts of it I don’t feel like writing about just now, but that were tough. I have already written about the other things. This was the year in which I discovered I am unlikely to live as long as I had thought I might, when I found out I had cancer, when I went through the difficult passage of cancer treatment.
Cancer changed me. It wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me, and it hasn’t been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it changed me.
Cancer gave me the opportunity to mentally unpack my life and look at what parts of it I want to keep and what parts of it I want to toss. It let me understand the limits of my lifespan, and this understanding sharpened my resolve about the things that matter to me.
Cancer gave me a kind of freedom. We all know that we are marked “Return to Sender,” but for most of our lives, we tend to forget that. Cancer brought that fact into sharper focus for me. And, in that focus, is freedom.
This is an odd thing for someone who held elective office for decades, but I never was much of a people-pleaser. I haven’t lived my life by trying to trim myself, my beliefs or my actions to fit what other people wanted me to do, believe or say.
I have my parents to thank for that internal freedom. They gave it to me by telling me, from the dawn of my life that I was made for myself and not other people. My parents did not fence me in with narrow ideas about myself. They did not allow me to drink down the cultural limitations that other people sought to impose on female children.
They weren’t feminists, didn’t even know the word. They were parents who were children of other parents who had rejected these notions somewhere along the long march through the abolitionist movement, the frontier and the turn to a powerful personal faith in a God Who did not Himself impose these limits.
My childhood, and a couple of life-changing things that happened to me at the end of it, shaped me to be a go-my-own-way, do-what-I-think-is-right kind of person. That acute freedom led me into some very public mistakes, which I very publicly regretted later on. But it also led me into an incredible life in which I had the opportunity to do things that mattered, that saved lives and changed lives for the better.
As I sit here on this Thanksgiving eve, writing this post, I am grateful. I am grateful for this wonderful country, which I love with my whole heart. I am grateful for my family, and for the friends who have stuck with me through it all.
But most of all, I am grateful to my Maker for loving me, and for forgiving me my sins, for giving me my children, my husband, my parents, my sweet baby granddaughter. I am grateful to Him for my life.
I am grateful to Him for His love. For seeing me through all of it, for walking beside me in the valley of the shadow. I am grateful to Him for Calvary, for eternal life, for lifting me out of the mire of mortality and giving me the gift of endless tomorrows.
Cancer is, in ways I never considered before I learned I had it, a liberating thing. It liberates you from the tyranny of tomorrow and places you squarely into today. And for that, I am grateful.
Cancer may take away years of the time I thought I had to live. But it has given me today.
I give thanks on this Thanksgiving eve for the myriad blessings of my life.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, along with all my many blessings, the opportunity to write and communicate with you dear people who have formed this good community here on Public Catholic. I write other places, for some good-sized publications. But nowhere else do I know my readers by name and personality.
I am grateful for each of you. Thank you for your prayers and your support during this hard year just past. You are the best.