As we prepare to enter into a new Church Year this weekend with the First Sunday of Advent, I thought I would take a brief look backward at this past year. It has been a difficult year in a lot of ways and it hasn't always been easy to be grateful for these challenges. Sometimes when we are in the midst of pain it can be a monumental task to see any of the blessings. They are there, but we may have to look very closely to spot them.
The first week of February my mom fell and broke her hip. It was awful. She had immense pain and struggle for many weeks. The blessings--I happened to be in Missouri visiting when she fell and I was close at hand. Another blessing was to see her determination to walk again. The therapy and rehab was painful for her. Yet, she eventually walked again. That is quite a feat for someone 91 years old.
In March I landed in the hospital myself. I had to cancel a couple of speaking commitments. It took me a long time to find any good in this experience. However, it occurred to me that many people were praying for me. I need that for more things than just my physical health. What a blessing! My illness probably had more of an impact than if I had stayed healthy and showed up to speak.
In May we celebrated our daughter's wedding. Although I didn't feel very well that day, I am grateful I was well enough to be there and to make it through the Father/Daughter dance without collapsing. I wanted to have a dance to remember and we definitely do. We enjoyed watching the video again recently in honor of their six-month anniversary.
In September another brother-in-law died. This was the second one in less than 18 months. The blessing was that we were in Missouri again at this time and my wife got to spend the night in the nursing home with him before he passed away the next day. The blessing of family was evident in many ways.
At the beginning of October I ended up back in the hospital again. Apparently, I needed more prayers. This time I missed commitments centered around Respect Life Sunday. The good news is that I got a different cardiologist and we may actually be making progress this time.
At the end of October my mom died. When she suddenly took a turn for the worse she only lasted two days. Her prayer was to go quickly. I think her prayer was answered. Although hard for me, it was a blessing to her.
In November it was my wife's turn to have a brief stay in the hospital. What is the good news in that? I'm not sure yet. I'm still looking. (It could be that with my bills and her bills we may actually have a combined total large enough to actually deduct medical expenses from our taxes this year. (That is still sad.)
The difficulties, sadness, and pain have been very present during the past year for me personally. It is through these moments that we have the opportunity to recognize all the many blessings and graces as well. As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day I invite you to name very specifically those people, places, and things for which you are sincerely grateful. Take time to let God know of your gratitude. Take time to let the people you love know just how you feel.