With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, I am in a reflective mood. I feel so grateful for the life I have had. Not only did I have the best career in the world – serving children and parents of four different school districts as a teacher and school administrator – but recently I have had the opportunity to share my story with others through my two books and numerous speaking engagements.
If you have read my blogs or my first book, Where the Water Meets the Sand, you know I have faced profound loss. I lost my husband in Vietnam while I was hospitalized at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. I lost my father to a heart of attack when I was nine years old and my brother who died of a heart attack at the age of 44. More recently, I lost my elderly mother to old age and dementia. There were other deaths, too – both sets of my grandparents, all five of my uncles, my father’s only sister and two of my young cousins.
Another different kind of loss I experienced was my decision as an unwed teenage mother to give my daughter up for adoption. I did that so she would grow up in a family environment with two adult parents. I’ve often thought of my daughter over the years, and wondered how she is doing, if she had children and if her children had children.
The truth is all these losses taught me to value life. I learned how to focus on the good and remember the moments I spent with my loved ones, regardless of how much time we shared together. All my experiences made me appreciate the lovely people who stepped into my life at the right time, helping me to recover from tragedy and move forward. These experiences have also helped me form a deep bond with my daughter, Laura. I still miss Larry some days but am so grateful for my time with him. Today Laura is one of my closest friends and our love grows deeper every day.
I admit, like all of us, I still face challenges. Since 2007, I have been in an ongoing battle with cancer; I am so grateful for wonderful doctors at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago who diagnosed me. Now, in Texas, I have the wonderful support of Dr. Michael Keating at M.D. Anderson in Houston.
There are times when my body slows me down. But, there’s an offsetting miracle. My spirit remains strong – it insists that I remind my body that I’m here and I have so much more to do in life. One of those things is to tell stories and encourage others to do the same. I am convinced that writing and telling our stories diminishes the space between us. We need that now more than ever.
With that being said, I encourage you to tell your stories. Enjoy your Thanksgiving with your friends and family – talk to them about memories and make new ones. Know that love heals and there’s much more good in our universe than there is bad. And, because music is the food for my soul, I’ve included one of my favorite songs below.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!