By Sylvia Kratzke
Mother of Heather DePaolo-Johnny (2002-CA)
An attitude of gratitude growing from grief and loss. An oxymoron if I ever heard one. Yet, somehow…
Yes, indeed, when a loved one dies, nothing else is important, only your intense sense of sadness and loss. Everything else pales in comparison. The dusty house, the piles of laundry, the petty squabbles of your workmates, the relatives complaining of this or that, NOTHING is as important as your grief. As you work through your grief and begin to resume your everyday life, the absurdity of the petty squabbling world around you becomes glaringly apparent. What is truly important becomes crystal clear. And that feeling stays with you as you continue your journey through grief, day by day, moving forward to new life, your first reason to be grateful.
There was a very elderly nun that came to Mass at our church, and she would greet us every time with, “Good morning! Isn’t it a glorious day?” It could be teeming with rain or snowing and blowing, but to her it was a glorious day. My husband, Len, and I have had numerous close family members die, culminating in a vicious cluster where we buried five family members in five months, the last being our beautiful daughter, Heather. Finding gratitude was challenging. Oh, we searched for things to be grateful for, for surely there must be more than this pain of loss.
We started with the easy things—a roof over our head, food on our table—and moved on to being thankful for friends, old and new, and warm furry cats for our laps in the cold winters of Buffalo. As the proverbial smoke began to clear and we journeyed on through our grief, our morning prayer routine began to include, of all things, “and thank you, God, for this glorious day.”
It has been seventeen years since that time of profound grief. We can look back now and know that each day is a gift. We thought we would not survive this most terrible of losses, yet we learned to live, one day at a time, in gratitude, and from that appeared renewed joy. We have so much for which to be thankful. Len’s Dad had but 53 years of glorious mornings, his Mom, 68 years of glorious mornings. My sister, 56 years of glorious mornings, our niece, 46 years of glorious mornings, and our Heathergirl, only 28 years of mornings, but each and every one was glorious! As we both approach 70 years of our own glorious mornings, indeed, we feel thankful. Each night a little death, each morning a rebirth filling us with gratitude and grace.