It’s When You Don’t Expect It: a reflection on gratitude

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(What better time to contemplate gratitude than the week of Thanksgiving? This was written by our sister, Amy Wisner. It was originally posted on www.caringbridge.org, where Amy keeps everyone informed on her husband Brian’s progress as he battles cancer. This piece reminds us that we don’t need to make heroic efforts in order to be a blessing to someone who is in need; as Amy so eloquently explains, sometimes it’s the little things that matter. God Bless us all.)

Amy Writes . . . 

We have an incredible group of friends and a marvelously supportive family. This is not a surprise to me. I am well aware that we never would have made it through this without your help, your meals, your chauffer services, your work in gardens and with snow fences, your love & companionship. I thank you all and am filled with gratitude for each and every one of you.

But today, I want to talk about the other people, the other times, the things I never expected.

There is our 80 year old neighbor (frankly, he has the reputation of being more than a bit grouchy) who arrives weekly on our doorstep with a Wendy’s Frosty in his hand. He heard Brian needed to gain weight & who doesn’t like a Frosty? His sons have come over to clean our gutters, wrap up our hoses, and offer to help with the snow fences (other friends beat them to that task.) They say their dad sent them over, but really, they are just good guys who saw a need. One of them stops by whenever he is visiting his dad, just to say howdy.

There is Mary Ellen, my dear friend’s sister. We have only met her a couple of times. She sent us a check and told us to do something nice for ourselves. We got side by side pedicures. You know the only way I would ever get Wizzie to do something like that was if it was on someone else’s dime.

There is Carol, the same friend’s employer, she is a caterer. She has arrived with complete meals staged as if we had hired her – beautiful to look at and wonderful to eat!

There are the Lunch Ladies, with whom I work, they offer hugs and prayers and good advice. When everything Brian ate tasted like metal, it was a couple of Lunch Ladies who told us to use plastic silverware. They were the ones who pushed mashed potatoes (a life-giving elixir, if ever there was one.) It amazes me how many of them have had cancer of some form or another & they are proof that life goes on. They have let me UNLOAD on them & then they made me laugh like a fool! As the poster in the kitchen says:  “Super heroes don’t wear capes, they wear aprons.”

There are the people I barely know, in town and at work, who have sent cards & e-mails. They are the ones who burst into tears when I tell them it looks we have an “all clear”.

There are store clerks who come around the counter to hug me when, in answer to their well wishes, I explain why we were having an especially wonderful Thanksgiving this year.

There is my old co-worker (meaning we used to work together, not meaning she is old) who brought over the most incredible Mexican Feast to celebrate “No More Chemo!” She even included tequila spiked bubbly water for me.

There is Brian’s high school & college buddy – Robo. He wished he lived nearby so he & his wife could make us dinner. Instead, they sent us a huge box of delicious treats from Colorado (it included a green chile sauce that was fabulous on the enchiladas in the Mexican Feast.)

There are my brother’s children, step-children, grandchildren & step-grandchildren who have sent cards, edible arrangements & a Zingerman’s gift card for when we were in Ann Arbor. We never expected any of it & it made us feel surrounded by love.

There are my children’s friends, not only have they supported and helped my children through this, they have visited us and sent cards and offered help. I still call them “kids” but actually they have grown up into damn fine adults.

And there are all the people we know just a little, or knew in the past but with whom we had lost touch:

  •  Ruth, a college friend of mine, & Laurie, who introduced me to Brian. It has been decades since I have seen either one of them, but they send love & well wishes frequently via this website & Facebook. Old friends are the best friends.
  • Dan & Daryl who arrived at our house as soon as they got back from a trip, to help fix a window & take out the air-conditioner. They could have told me to call a handy man, instead they brought their tools.
  • Barb, my god-sister. We had hardly seen each other for 40 years (and we didn’t see that much of each other before that.) She has stepped up in a HUGE way. She sat with my mother in the hospital and visited her in “The Home”. Mom loved those visits & it gave my brother & me a break. She visits us, always bringing some wonderful treat. She calls and checks in. She is available anytime we need a hand.  Most importantly, she makes me remember my past and laugh! I am so grateful to have that connection re-energized.
  • Mary G – a friend from Worship Center days – Mary lost her beloved husband just a year ago. She has held me in her heart, gently urged me in the right direction, and provided care I didn’t even realize I needed (at a time when I should be caring for her.)

I know there are dozens more, I will remember them as soon as I post this. I am moved to tears by the kindness of strangers. The world is a good place. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

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