“Giving Thanks for Good Medicine,” column for Aug. 30, 2016

For almost two months, I have been, as some might say, laid up and feeling low. The “laid up” part was due to an accident in which I turned my ankle, broke my foot and ended up in a giant boot, rolling around in a wheelchair.

“Feeling low” was an embarrassing condition some people call a “pity party.” I don’t know why they call it that. It was more like a wake. It came and went, based on how much pain I felt or how much pity I was willing to wallow in. Most days, it was only a little. Somedays it was a lot.

And then I learned my younger brother had died unexpectedly. All of us, if we live long enough, will know physical pain and emotional heartbreak, sometimes all at once. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to take turns. We’ll have loved ones to lean on, family and friends who will surround us to keep us afloat as we walk on water, and who will trust us when their turn comes, as it surely will, to do the same for them.

My mother used to say life is a bank. Sometimes we put into it. Other times, we take out. Either way, it’s all the same bank and we’re all in it together. I have a really big bank. My husband, my children, my grandchildren and others in my family. Friends who are as dear as any blood kin could be. I don’t know what I’d do, or who I’d be, without them.

Moreover, by some quirky grace of God, I have an army of angels that for lack of a better term, I call “reader friends.” If you’re a newcomer to this column, let me say, as I learned, growing up in the South: “Welcome. Put your feet up. Make yourself at home.”

But for those of you who’ve hung with me, reading what I’ve written for 25 years, I want to hug your neck and say, “How’s your mama and them?”

In recent weeks, I’ve heard from hundreds (or thousands, maybe, I can’t keep track) of “reader friends” who have emailed or snail-mailed or posted messages on my website or Facebook page, offering condolences for my loss, and kind wishes for my healing.

Many of you shared stories of sufferings you’ve endured, loved ones you have lost, heartaches you’ve survived, challenges you have faced and overcome.

Some of you even sent gifts: A butterfly “faith” magnet to remind me to keep the faith. A fancy potholder that will come in handy if I ever remember how to turn on the stove. And my husband’s personal favorite: a “dammit doll” for when I feel the need to hit something.

Every card, every message, every kind word was a reminder to be thankful, a healing balm for body and soul. There is no better medicine than gratitude.

Years ago, as my first husband neared the end of a long and valiant battle with cancer, I came up with a plan to help us both: We would each keep a notebook, I said, recording five things each day for which we were thankful. And at the end of the day, we’d compare notes.

“What if I don’t do it?” he said.

“I’ll hide the remote control for the TV,” I said.

So he did it. Every day. As long he was able. My name often made his list, but he always put God first. He said God never threatened to hide the remote.

Many things helped in those last days: A lot of prayers, a lot of love, a lot of casseroles. But the daily practice of giving thanks was a miracle drug. Even as his body was dying, I watched gratitude heal his soul.

It was a lesson I swore I’d not forget. But, OK, I’ll just say this: Somedays I can’t remember where I left my glasses when they’re on top of my head.

Lucky for me, I have family, friends and “reader friends” who help me remember things far too important to forget.

Thank you.

As one “reader friend” so finely summed it up:

“We’re all just walking each other home.”

Comments

  1. Judy says:

    “We’re all just walking each other home” – Rami

  2. Shashi says:

    Get well soon !! My sister-in-law went through this couple months ago. She did not like boot at all. Now driving again! I pray for you as you are an angel for everybody.

  3. Kate Sciacca says:

    Such a column from the heart…. Well, the soul actually. CS Lewis nailed it when he said (referring to his wife’s death) – “we do not go through grief, grief goes through us – and we cannot control it.” So true,,, all will be going along just fine and then…. BAM!!!!! The heart starts aching and the tears start flowing. May God’s Peace be with you. ?

  4. Linda Cope says:

    First off, I really enjoy your column. It seems that many times we are on the same wave length.
    I had ankle surgery (fusion) June first, and have progressed from a cast to the ever so chic black boot. At least I am now getting back to walking.
    When you mentioned the dammit doll in today’s column, for some reason I remembered something a friend told me years ago. Outside her kitchen window, she had a glove pinned by the middle finger . Whenever she wanted to let loose, she just looked at that glove.

  5. Sharon, I have enjoyed your column for years.
    I am so sorry for your loss. I believe I remember
    reading that you have North Carolina roots. Don’t be too
    hard on yourself; we Southerners “take to our bed” with the knowledge
    that it’s not a character flaw, but it’s a way God’s
    provided for us to rest and recover. I love the passage in Deuteronomy
    which says “underneath are His everlasting arms.”
    In His love, Carolyn Shobe

  6. Jackie Conklin says:

    I know how it feels when someone you love so dearly passes…Your heart is broken♥
    So here is a little hug from me (♥)

  7. Pearlene Curry says:

    Sharon,
    I hope you are feeling much better. You, my newspaper friend are always the “balm” my soul, heart and body needs. I look so forward to each Sunday column from you. Some how the words I need are always there. Thank you so much. And those words are true, ” We are just walking each other home.” Pearlene

  8. Sheila Torres says:

    So sorry for your loss. It’s as though a piece of your heart goes with them. I know your loss; I lost my two year old Grandson. That loss was as hard as watching my Son, his Dad experience his loss. I learned we’re all here for a short time, we don’t know how long. We just need to try to be the best we can. We love our family and those friends that are close. We try to make each day count. And, we pray God forgives us our sins and let’s us be with our loved ones in His Heaven when our time on Earth is over. God bless you all ❤️

  9. Sharon Retterer says:

    Hugs, Sharon! I often think of one of your columns I read a few years ago about a dream that you were in heaven and all your loved ones were lined up. You went down the line and hugged them all. I was so jealous that I hadn’t had such a dream. So, I think your brother just went thru that line and got all those hugs. How sweet is that!

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