Fierce Gratitude

After my friend died unexpectedly from a stroke 15 months ago, I wandered through my days in a fog, not able to focus on the tasks in front of me.

If I wondered if she’d been trapped inside her body unable to speak to us for that week, I’d think of her as a prisoner, stuck there in the hospital bed while her worried friends commented about the swelling in her legs, a phantom movement in her hand, her yellow nail polish. If I concentrated on my friend’s actual death, replaying what I imagined were her last moments of consciousness, I would spiral into despair.

Once she was declared gone, I walked around for days doing, I suppose, my normal things. Kissing my girls goodbye in the morning before school, answering emails, making spaghetti for dinner. But really I was adrift. I alternated between wallowing in acute loss and feeling like someone had hit me upside the head. I couldn’t remember the punch clearly, but it stung, and I felt woozy.

One day, though, I started to notice a new feeling that arose, quiet and cottony from the haze — a deep, desperate appreciation for being alive. When it came, I’d stop whatever I was doing, and thank my breath for still being with me. I was awash in gratitude for my heart still beating, my blood so efficiently pumping through my veins, without any effort whatsoever from me. As I continued to walk through those days, I thought myself grateful for my life. And I was. It was a fierce sort of gratitude, though; one that was born out of the juxtaposition of my alive self with what had recently lain there in that hospital bed — a riot of tubes and monitors that pushed air into what used to be my friend.

Since that time, I’ve slowly felt my way toward something more joy-filled. Step by step, half-blind on some days, I’ve steadied myself. I picked up the remnants of my work life, where my friend played an intricate part, and stitched together a different job for myself. And in the other areas of my life I’ve really started to bloom. I’ve met a tribe of soul sisters so amazing and filled with magic that it takes my breath away.

I am writing again. I found my way back there, creating characters and dialogue, playing with sentences and words, and have fallen in love with it all over again. What’s more, I’m doing work I love, helping other writers and seekers find their voices and bring them into the world.

These days I am full, full of joy — the true essence — not the absence of pain but rather that which fills a life.

This morning, I awoke smiling. Lingering a second or two, I drank in those precious moments, luxuriating in the day’s possibilities, and I felt a sense of gratitude, deep and wide, for being alive. And for that, I’m fiercely grateful.


Photo by Meiying Ng on Unsplash