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Watershed moments often start with hard situations. 

It can be challenging, amid loss, to feel as if there’s anything for which to be grateful. Something terrible is unfolding. You find yourself with a diagnosis, or at the bedside of a loved one, or making difficult decisions about care for someone or traveling through a divorce. So, you wonder, what is there to be grateful about? 

Yet, if we can uncover our own sense of gratitude, we may find that there’s more happening in our life than just the current difficulty we are facing. By searching out even small glimpses of grace around us, we may begin to see our whole experience in a different light. 

But how do you get there…to the gratitude…from the middle of the hard situation? 

It was a terrible shock to learn that my younger sister Lisa was in the hospital having suffered a brain aneurysm. She was in a city across the country. My sister Kris and I couldn’t get there fast enough. Flying into the night we didn’t know what her condition would be by the next morning. It was hard and scary. 

In the days that followed we rode the tide of her condition. Some days there were glimpses of hope and others were touched with difficulty and brokenness. Lisa’s friends buoyed us, provided meals, comforted us, and visited Lisa and by extension, us, in her hospital room. 

One of my early thoughts was to bring pictures of Lisa to the hospital so the staff caring for her could see what she was like before the aneurysm. It was a good intention but amid all that was happening, I forgot to bring pictures from Lisa’s home. Instead, some of her best friends showed up and brought with them pictures. I did not share my idea with anyone. It was their love and knowledge of Lisa that inspired the creation of a prayer flag for Lisa’s room with pictures and messages. 

Kris had notified Lisa’s primary care physician while we were traveling. Even though Lisa was under the medical care of a whole team of people, her PCC stopped nearly every day to check on Lisa and the two of us. She would begin her visit by asking us, “what do you understand about what’s happened today?” She would share information, education, and encouragement – all was not lost. Right away she offered to provide the necessary documentation for FMLA to our employers. 

She was yet another gratitude in the middle of a very difficult experience. 

At the gathering before Lisa’s funeral service a neighbor approached me. He knew that extended street parking was not an option and offered to keep Lisa’s car in his garage. This information and generous offer came as a complete surprise and provided a needed solution to a problem we didn’t even know we would have. He garaged Lisa’s car for more than a month while we returned home to have a second memorial service. 

All that to say that amid this tragedy, we were surrounded by grace. There were very particular moments that felt like lifelines. These tiny acts of kindness brought welcome comfort and relief in dark hours of loss. There were many similar moments. While grief felt writ large, the opportunities for gratitude arrived as bright beams of love that eased our sorrow. They were moments that went together – grief, gratitude, grief, gratitude. We learned that we were not alone. 

Share in the comments a small act of kindness someone has done for you that made a big impact on your life.

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