Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Palm of My Left Hand.

I just learned something about myself today. When I'm really tired I tend to prop my head in the palm of my left hand. Witness the first picture that my four-year-old daughter took of me on a Greyhound bus en route from Mississippi to Colorado in 1993. I had been awake for almost 48 hours when she took that photo. I was too frightened to fall asleep while traveling via bus with a four-year-old. I wouldn't sleep for another ten hours.

My husband took the second photo during my birthday in November, 2013, almost exactly 20 years after that first photo. I was one and one-half months into an almost three-month reprieve from caregiving for mom. I had returned home to catch up with work, to try to salvage my garden before winter, and to meditate on what I had on the plate before me. Believe me, it wasn't a bowl of ice cream. I wasn't sleeping well at all.

At the encouragement of some dear women friends, I began to write a list filled with at least five things I was grateful for every day. No matter how tired or irritated or frightened I was, I began writing and posting these lists every morning on my private Facebook page. I started this habit about three months before mom died. At first, I was very self-conscious about my gratefulness. But, by the time mom died, I was in full swing. I even posted five things I was grateful for on the morning she died:

6/7/2014: This morning I'm grateful.

1. I'm so grateful that mom found it in herself to be responsive enough to say goodbye to her sons and her granddaughter via phone yesterday. Those calls, although only less than a minute and mostly unintelligible, were miraculous, joyful, and transcendent.
2. I'm grateful for mom's music therapist, who came and sang and played for mom for over an hour yesterday. He didn't have to make that effort. When he said goodbye to her, he held her hand and kissed her forehead, and mom had the sweetest smile on her face. She even responded while he was here, saying he was "soothing."
3. I'm grateful that I can find yesterday as a stunningly beautiful day, because today is not so great so far.
4. I am grateful beyond words for my loving friends who live all over the world who are holding us in their hearts. I feel that lift, I do. I feel it physically, and it sustains me.
5. It's hard, but I'm grateful that I can find some things today to be grateful for. I hope mom can let go soon.

I don't know what time I posted that list that Saturday morning. I just know I hadn't slept for at least 48 hours. I know I was sitting next to mom's bed. I'm almost positive I was holding my head in my left palm, because I know I was holding mom's right hand with my right hand.

I don't find it ironic that, in both photos, I lost sleep caring for a daughter and a mother. I'm not surprised that I can still bring a hint of a smile to my face despite lack of sleep. Even without those gratitude lists, I've been grateful most of my life. I've always been grateful for friends, relatives, and complete strangers who have held my hand and showed me a way.

Without gratitude, I wouldn't survive. Gratefulness is like the palm of my left hand -- it lifts me up.

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