It is easy to count my blessings when they are right before my eyes. My husband and my two daughters are easily at the top of my list. They bring me joy and give meaning to my life. Blessings walking, breathing and living right in front of me.
There are absolutely other blessings in my life, obvious ones like food on my table and a roof over my head. My family is free to choose which religion we want and to worship and follow it freely. We live in a beautiful place and have an abundance of family and friends that support us. We have had experience in travel, we have our health and we have work.
With ease I can list blessings, and for that I am thankful. However, this year I was taught how to list my blessings in the midst of tragedy. Let me tell you a bit about how the first 7 months of 2016 went for us. I fear that as you read this, I will come across as though I am counting my tragedies, instead of blessings, but I need to point them out to stress the gift that was given as a result of these events.
2015 departed and it was with an urgency and a need to start off a fresh new year. My husband and I left for a week in Mexico, just the two of us. It was just what we needed. We came home feeling refreshed, relaxed and even more in love. We arrived back home to find out that a friend had passed away. While the news didn’t surprise me, it was heartbreaking. She left behind a husband and three beautiful children. Of course, one can’t help but imagine leaving behind one’s own family in a similar tragedy. Within that same week I received a phone call from my sister-in-law telling me that my brother had been in a bad work accident. He cut his thigh with a very powerful tool, and while he needed surgery to try and repair the damage, the list of what-ifs was far too long for my liking.
Exactly a month afterwards, our best friends’ 4 week old son suffered a heart attack. He had a cold that progressed quickly, resulting in respiratory failure which lead to a cardiac arrest. The doctors and nurses worked on him for about 50 minutes, ultimately saving his life. The first few days they didn’t know what damage would have been done due to a lack of oxygen to the brain for such a long period of time. It was the longest few days of my life as we waited for the test. The result? Nothing, absolutely no brain damage. He remained in the Intensive Care Unit at a children’s hospital near us. Once he was released, he was readmitted two more times. This was over the course of a few months, going into April. He is now an 11 month old boy who is vibrant, busy with no signs of his illness.
In May my grandfather, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimers a couple of years earlier, was admitted to the psychiatric unit of a local hospital. Here he suffered a major heart attack which lead him to be on life support. My grandma along with her kids made the difficult decision to take my grandfather off of life support. Grief overcame our family like a storm.
I had just found out that I was carrying our third baby a couple of weeks prior, so we decided to share the news with my family in the hopes of offering a bright spot in the darkness. Four days after my grandpa passed I lost the pregnancy. My first miscarriage. Again, the grief was overwhelming and the weight and the pain of the past 6 months seemed to wash over me wave after wave. It felt like as soon as I gathered enough energy to stand up again, another wave came and knocked me down.
My husband and I decided to take a break from plans for the rest of the summer. We cleared our schedules for the next few months. We had plans to visit our friends in Edmonton at the beginning of July and decided to go. We spent a long weekend with them, and their family at their cabin. It was exactly what we needed. A distraction, a break and time with good friends.
On our last day there, I saw a missed a call from my mom. Immediately I knew something had happened. I talked with husband and we tried to determine if this was a gut feeling, or my anxiety coming back due to the year’s events. I knew something had happened. Within a few minutes I had my mom on the phone and she told me to sit down. My cousin, just a year older than I, had died from a brain aneurism. The same family who had just lost my grandpa. I sat on the bed in my friend’s basement and cried.
I cried for him, my family, my friends, and all the pain I couldn’t seem to escape.
While this amount of tragedy is indeed unusual, grief will always come. Pain will always knock on our door, and we have to answer it. We cannot live a life free of heartache, pain and tragedy. What we can do is shift our focus. We can choose to let the grief wash over us, feel it and continue to live in such a way that shows our gratitude for the life we have.
The biggest lesson I have learned this year came from experiencing every single one of those tragedies. What I learned is that family is so important. Community is necessary. Letting people take care of you is a must. Being busy, over-scheduling and filling our days with seemingly important activities is not where life happens. Life happens when you press pause and you experience life just how it is right now.
This summer I experienced watching my kids play at the beach, run through the sprinkler and enjoy a freezie. I sat back and let the warm summer breeze dance across my bathing-suit clad body (and not care that I was in one). A greater appreciation came for smaller moments and things, and I longed to push away the unnecessary things that society tries to tell us matter. In a matter of months I lost a friend, a grandpa, a cousin and my God, I never thought I’d say this, but a baby. I almost lost my brother and my best friend’s son.
I refuse to focus on those facts though, and I choose to focus on the miracles that came from each one. Baby C who is alive and well! He, who is a testament to my faith, just by being here. My brother, who wasn’t supposed to walk for six months and was back to work within weeks. This baby, whose time here was so fleeting, but showed me that I absolutely could love another child as much as I love my girls. And that through all of that pain and heartache, it drove me closer to my husband instead of apart. I think the biggest lesson I learned though, is what it means to truly walk in faith and lean in on the One who carries me through it all.
Michelle Smid is a mom of two little girls and wife to Spencer. She is passionate about creating a community of mothers who are authentic about the emotional roller coaster of motherhood, supporting and accepting each other. Michelle loves to read, have dance parties with her daughters and cook. Michelle is girly, silly and an idealist. She is also the Community Outreach Coordinator of the Good Mother Project.