Earlier this year, I was so happy to have sold my first book, and at the time it seemed to be the best, most exciting, most important thing that could happen to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thrilled and can’t wait to hold my book in my hands and share it with readers.
But this time of year, when we reflect on what’s important to us, having a book published is at the bottom of my list.
I’ve been thinking strongly about family, in particular about my brother, Mike. Last year at this time, he was still with us. He’d been diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in the spring of 2011. Mike spent most of his adult life living in a certain paradise called Hawaii. Of all the people I know, he truly lived life on his own terms. And those terms were a relaxed life uncomplicated by mortgages, stressful intense jobs and too many possessions.
But when he was diagnosed, he and I knew he didn’t have the support group necessary to see him through his illness, so my husband and I asked him to live with us.
I’m thinking about this now because he was with us last Thanksgiving, but died one week later. That Thanksgiving, even though Mike wasn’t eating much, I cooked a full-on Thanksgiving dinner. I wanted him to have the comfort that comes from a house warm with the smell of roasting turkey. My cousin and her husband came from Sacramento and joined us for the meal.
Mike lived with us for about five months. It wasn’t easy seeing his illness progress. It’s difficult to think of that afternoon when he passed away in my arms as I was helping him get comfortable in his bed.
But what I’m thankful for is the time I had with him. I’m thankful we had a chance to laugh and remind each other of stories from our childhood and crazy high school days, to cry together when realities hit us. I’m thankful for the visits we had from family and friends who reminisced, laughed, and cried with him, too. I’m thankful for my husband, who didn’t hesitate to bring Mike into our home and who became a part of that journey with love and compassion.
I’m thankful now that my husband and I and other family members are healthy. That this Thanksgiving I’ll travel to Sacramento and share the holiday with my mother, who’s doing well, her seizures now under control. My brother and his wife will be there, and their two sons. I’m so proud of my nephews who (hard to believe!) are now college students. And my cousin and her husband will join us.
I’m in charge of the turkey and stuffing, and my mother’s small house will be filled with those familiar, comforting smells.
Yes, I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. It’s nice to be reminded of what’s important in life, isn’t it?
What are you thankful for this year?