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How I Learned What “Thankful” Means

It was just a short three years ago that I experienced it for the first time, and I was one and a half months into my nursing career. Since I was still on orientation, I was lucky enough to have Thanksgiving off. I did however work that Wednesday prior. As I wrapped up my shift at the end of the day,  I noticed the sullen, quiet lull that took over the halls of the hospital. Everyone who could be discharged, was. Patients who were still in the hospital were there for one of three reasons: they were either receiving chemo that required them to be there, they were unstable, or they were actively dying. After my shift concluded I jumped in my car for the three hour drive from Michigan to Indiana.  During the car ride I began to understand what being thankful truly looked like.

If you change the way you look at things the things you look at change

As a family member, I have the loved one at the bedside of an unstable loved one on a holiday. As a nurse, I have been the near stranger fighting to keep a patient alive and stable for as long as possible. Neither is easy.

Holidays are an amazing time for many, but for many still they are incredibly hard and trying. For some, this may be the first holiday without a loved one, or they may be the one sitting by their loved ones bed as they are fighting to stay alive. For some they may be the only living one left in their family.

Today, I sat thinking about all the young patients I took care of this last year that have passed away. So many of them have young children who are experiencing their first holiday without one of their parents and my heart just aches and breaks.  Life is fragile – so fragile.

Little did I know three years ago, as I was driving home working through thankfulness, that it would be my last Thanksgiving with my grandma. I wish in so many ways that I knew then what I know now, because there are so many things from that day that I cannot remember. There are so many times that I long for her to come up to me and make my cheeks turn bright red by telling me how kissable my lips are. For her to grab hold of my hand as we talk about our next shopping trip. To go to her house that smelled of laundry detergent and bleach and sit with her.

Life is fragile, so so fragile.

So this Thanksgiving I want to encourage you to embrace every moment with your loved ones. To take the pictures then set the phones down. To pray for those who are sitting at the side of loved ones taking their final breaths, pray for those healthcare workers fighting to keep patients alive, pray for those who are walking through their first holiday without their loved one and feeling that space even more.

 Being thankful means being present in the moment and embracing life as it is at this moment.  This year I am choosing to be thankful for where I am at and what I have.
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