Whether you are young, middle-aged, or old we all experience grief. We lose something or someone we love. Our loved ones depart. We bury our beloved pets. We are left behind. In that vacuum of loss, we suffer. We grieve. We cry.
Later in life, we see a life-long dream will not happen no matter how hard we work. The once possible becomes impossible. Financial security will not be attained. Physical health will not be restored. Some items on our bucket lists will die before we do.
Expectations of children being financially independent, or taking trips to Europe and far-off lands, or that career goal or big investment paying off become false hopes. That retirement with your spouse which you’ve looked forward to for many years ends with a divorce petition being served on you.
For me when I grieve for what I lost with polio and paralysis, I am sad that I cannot and will not ever run, jump, play golf, dance with Dorothy, play tennis, ride a bike or take a hike. Even now I cannot do what I did in my 30’s like walk a half-mile or ride a stationary bike for three miles.
Yet, what I can do to overcome my grief is to reflect and be grateful for cherished memories and times I have spent with those I love. For example, this iconic photograph of Dorothy and me in 1978 as we stood together smiling on Nob Hill with the San Francisco Bay behind us. On that magical day, I was able to walk the streets of San Francisco and Ghirardelli Square without the assistance of a motorized wheelchair.
At that moment all I needed was my walking cane, Dorothy, and her love for me.
Six years later I was one of 100 000 polio survivors who suffered post-polio syndrome (PPS). With it came the sudden and unexpected weakness in the muscles I had regained after years of rehabilitation from polio. After feeling twice cursed and in deep emotional pain, my thoughts turned to gratitude. Gratefulness for being able to function so well for nearly four decades after polio. That gratitude overcame and overshadowed my grief. With gratefulness, I remained strong, courageous, positive, and happy.
Later, that gratitude enabled me to spend nights in an Iron Lung for five years with PPS and still ably serve as President of both the Gulf Coast Family Law Specialists and the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists-Houston Chapter. At that time, because of that strength and support from God, I never felt the need to share this journey with my colleagues or the judges I appeared before in court for hearings and trials. All because of gratitude, the Glory, and the Grace of God.
God has spoken to us in Scripture about gratefulness.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.
Let us pray together.
Dear God, in prayer, may we be forever grateful for the blessings You have bestowed on us.
God, please open our eyes and hearts to see the experiences and the people who reside in the deep well of gratitude within us.
God, in time, may our gratitude overcome and overshadow our grieving for what once was and the hardships of life and love.
Last, may our gratitude be shared with You in prayers of thanksgiving; for with You in Heaven, ultimately, all our dreams will be fulfilled. Amen.
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Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas, a Board-Certified Family Law and Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Professional Divorce Attorney, Mediator, Author, Entrepreneur, and Inspirational Speaker. For more information about Jack or his latest book, Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love, go to the BendingAngel.com website.