jusummerhayes

Daily gratitude

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” ― Meister Eckhart

I'm tired today. 

Or rather I'm feeling the aftereffects of my daughter's 17th birthday (daughter #3). Ah, but it was fun. 

But, in part, it was tinged with a melancholic feel, given that her grandad wasn't here to celebrate it with her. He never forgot to telephone his grandchildren to wish them happy birthday — you could practically set your watch by the time of the call — and to give them a card and present. 

I wasn't surprised, but my daughter, after we'd come back from the beach, said she wanted to visit his grave in Totnes. This was the first time since Brian's funeral I'd felt able to visit. To be honest, as someone who's never been a fan of burials, I wasn't surprised to see that his plot looked a little worse for wear and shorn of a headstone it felt, well, cold, almost empty of Brian's soul. We tidied it up, placed some new flowers on the plot and there was a moment where we all cried — we didn't need to say anything; the moment said it all. God knows what my daughter was feeling. We miss you Brian and you will forever live on in our hearts 🖤. 

When I did finally manage to go to bed, having been properly fed and watered, I tried to watch a few things on my phone but I mostly lay awake thinking about the liminal space between life and death. I'm sure it's from a quote but all I could think is that there's only one breath difference between life and death. One day you're here, and the next, gone — never to return. 

I know the trope 'live each day as if it's your last' has been done to death but how many of us (ever) consider that this day might actually be our last? Sudden deaths are not that uncommon — I should know having worked in the funeral business for nearly 10 years. Sorry, I know that sounds a bit blunt but, truthfully, we've no idea what's around the corner, even though, I'm sure, we all expect to live for a long time. 

For me, having read and listened to Die Wise by Stephen Jenkinson more times than I care to remember, I no longer see living as an expression of how much I can squeeze out of life but I appreciate that life comes out of death and we need to see it almost in terms of a deity.

“Dying is active. Dying is not what happens to you. Dying is what you do."

Even if you don't see death this way, I wonder to what extent you open your heart to a daily dose of gratitude? I'll be honest, for large parts of my life, I never gave the simple things let alone the significant things much thought, and I certainly wasn't apt to pause and reflect on all that life offered me and those I loved. Even now, save perhaps for when I'm out in nature, I rarely stop to say a hearty 'thank you' for my life. I could keep a gratitude diary but that doesn't float my boat. Perhaps writing these pithy pieces should incorporate a standard paragraph dealing with my gratitude on the past, present and future. I don't know. I don't want to make things too contrived but then again, even sitting down to write these few words shouldn't be taken for granted.

Perhaps, just perhaps, one breath, one solitary breath is all I need to reflect on, given its colossal importance. Yes, there's hardship in our lives, angst and loss but I still believe that being here, alive to this moment, is very precious and never to be taken for granted.

Today, my wife and I are off to Cornwall to celebrate my brother-in-law's 60th birthday. I'm sure there will be a moment or two to reflect on Brian and all the wonderful memories of us being together as a family. He would absolutely have loved being at his son's 60th, living life as only he knew how — in love of everything, especially his dear, precious family. 

Take care.

Blessings, Ju

Photo by Sterling Lanier on Unsplash


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