Thankfulness and All That Jazz November 27, 2012Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
Tags: caregiving, life, thankfulness
The true story about the start of Thanksgiving is a contentious one and unbearably fuzzy when researched. Food does appear to play a role in it, but that enchanting scene of Native Americans and settlers sharing a turkey around a large rustic dining table may only be a fabrication. Still, I think it’s an incredible idea to have a holiday dedicated to giving thanks. What the heck, right? If we are going to have a holiday, why not have at least one devoted to remembering all the things we can be thankful for? And while we’re at it, lets spend that time with the people we care about and have a feast.
I have to admit that I find taking only one day out of the year for a thankfulness celebration a bit thin, but I’ll take it. And, it’s my opinion that we don’t really need a questionable story as an excuse; any thankfulness will do. Thankfulness is one of those rare economical pleasures we can indulge in at a time when our budgets may be stretched buying the latest high tech gifts which often have a “thankful” life of a few months at best.
This Thanksgiving I was feeling particularly thankful for all the wonderful people who’ve touched my life and contributed something to my personal evolution. Thanksgiving dinner was not only exceptional food-wise, but was also exceptional in the quality and warmth of my hosts and the endearing nature of their family and guests. It’s a great feeling to not only fill your belly with delicious food, but to feel your heart filled up as well.
A good friend of mine, John Chan, was a world class photographer and a frequent contributor to prominent fashion magazines. John died a number of years ago in a car accident after having moved to California. It was quite a blow to those of us who knew and loved him. At John’s memorial I was allowed to take several pieces of his work, but the one that caught my eye was a photographic portrait he did of the great trumpet virtuoso, Wynton Marsalis. I was a decent trumpet player many years ago and still enjoy listening to great Jazz players, so this particular portrait had additional appeal (plus it’s a great example of John’s unique work).
A few years after taking posession of the photo I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Marsalis while he was doing a concert here in Vegas, and asked if he would autograph the portait. He remembered when the shoot took place and was shocked to learn of John’s death. After taking a few thoughtful moments he wrote “Ira; We are still here!”
It’s a simple statement but how often does anyone stop to feel what that means? “We’re still here!” I would even simplify that one step further and say, “We’re here!”. If there is one thing losing K has taught me it’s that death is extremist in its ways. Wow, talk about no compromise, there just aren’t any grey areas with death; it’s absolute and unyielding. Yet, I am still here. How is it that I am not a puddle on the floor with my mouth wide open? I am part of an actual, non-scripted miracle in which I am given a small space to exist – and no explanation for it is given. It’s so obvious that it’s almost impossible to see. I think if we actually understood the fact of our existence we might run over to our neighbor and say “Oh my God! We’re here!” Instead it seems the focus is in things with so little consequential value. It’s a bit like taking a first-class vacation to the Grand Canyon and spending the whole time absorbed in looking at nothing except cigarrette butts on the walkways.
The stresses a caregiver goes through are relentless and at times overwhelming. Yet, there is so much to be thankful for. Every moment K was alive, even so slightly, was a blessing for her. It was a gift, and she knew it. I think that’s why she took her dying so calmly. Yet, though it was a blessing for her, her presence in this world was also a gift for me and many others. She contributed to the shape of my life and to the deepening understanding I carry today about being human and experiencing human love. She not only taught me things about life but also about the process of dying. She paved the way for me to accept and not fear the inevitable. I was lucky to have known her and for that I am thankful.
That we have an existence, a form and can experience all manner of human emotion is a gift. Maybe during the hard times our lives seems unworthy of thanks, but I have to remember that one day I will no longer participate in what’s going on here and that will be that. With life comes hope. With life comes learning. With life comes a story uniquely my own for which I will be the witness from the first breath until the last. And for that I am thankful.
K trusted me to be her caregiver and it was a great honor to be in that position. It was a discovery on many levels and an opportunity to treasure her company each day she remained with us. Caregiving has made me a bit more human and more prone to kindness, and for that I am thankful.
So although I will remain skeptical about the origin of Thanksgiving, I don’t feel the same skepticism when it comes to how satisfying it is to feel thanks. As a caregiver, no matter where in the process, I hope you are able to feel thankful for the time you have with your loved one. For the moment, we are still here and they can receive our expression of love. Let’s not squander it; from my experience there aren’t second chances.