Thankful. For the bitter and the sweet.

A year ago I wrote a post on gratitude (link here) soon after Thanksgiving. From the depth of my grief of E’s diagnosis I wrote that I was struggling to be thankful, and instead felt more gratitude. I lamented over difficulties and fears and felt that I couldn’t find the simple joys anymore. My journals filled with lists of those joys had closed. I discovered that gratitude can’t fit on a list. It’s deeper, and requires intentionality. It was a solid lesson to learn in a season of grief.

Yet here I sit, almost exactly a year later with a newly purchased journal. The first page bears the title, “Thankful.”

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My thankfulness lists are starting again.

The caramel lattes and holding Ben’s hand are there, just as they have been in the past but this time, so are the hard things. I carry with me a burden of grief… a gratitude of grief that makes the list more meaningful. The list bears sweet moments, and bitter moments. The past year has taught me that I really must take the bitter with the sweet.

The bitterness of a diagnosis paired with the sweetness of information and connection with other families.

The sweetness of hearing E’s happy squeals along with the bitterness of hearing no words.

Every sweet step she takes bittered by her clunky green gait trainer and ankle braces.

The bitterness that can build with every episode of Gilmore Girls dampened by the sweetness of Ben noting E and I’s bond calling us “two peas in a pod”.

With every line, there lies a sweet that is made even sweeter by a bitterness. The bitters make us aware of the life-giving, love-filling, joy-abounding moments. The sometimes bleakness of the future sharpens our hope of Heaven.

I quoted 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 at the end of my post last year, and this year is even more true: Give thanks in all circumstances. For the bitter and the sweet.

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