Gratitude

When I was in college I worked part time at a special-care unit for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.  David, one gentleman on the unit, was in the later stage of the disease, which through deterioration of his memory, had impaired his ability to do all things independently that we often take for granted. He required assistance with meal preparation, self-care, and to structure meaningful conversation.

One particular evening in the weeks prior to Christmas, David received a Christmas card with a personal note from a family member. After reading the card and the message to him, a woman who was also a resident on the care unit, said something to David to the effect of “Honey, you should put that in your room so you don’t lose it.”  I can still see David and hear his reply. David was a man who through dementia had experienced many losses, who often did not have enough language to express himself, calmly and profoundly responded “I will keep it in my heart.”

I don’t recall what happened to that Christmas card, if it made it to David’s room, or not.  But David’s sentiment, his sincere response “I will keep it in my heart,” has resonated with me for the more than 25 years since.

David and this scenario is one that replays vividly and meaningfully in my mind, especially in thinking of Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season. 

At this time of year, when we reflect on what we are thankful for, I know surely I am blessed. My basic needs are abundantly met and I am grateful. My family, extended family, and I enjoy health, and for this I am thankful. Beyond this, what is most important that I am thankful for are the things I can “keep in my heart.” 

Not that I am ungrateful for material objects, but money and "things" are accumlated, and lost. As I age, with life's experience, my family’s histories, and knowing the stories of the patients I serve – I especially reflect at Thanksgiving on what is truly important, the things I “keep in my heart.”

Experience and Memories. The good times. And yes the bad times, too, as they enrich and strengthen gratitude in this journey of trying to live a life well-lived. 

Compassion, given and received.

These are the things that I do not take for granted. I am thankful. These are the things I will keep in my heart, at Thanksgiving and all year.

 

Wishing you and yours abundance, and gratitude, to keep in your heart, this Holiday Season, and throughout the year. 

Peace.

517-881-1302 michael@oconnorot.com

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