Gratitude in Hell

thank you heart text
Photo by Řaj Vaishnaw on

In the past, almost five months, I have gone through hell, lived in hell. I am trying to climb out of it,  with success, until some moments grab me by the ankles, trying to pull me further in. Yet through this nightmare, I am able to see the people and feelings I am grateful for, even through tears blinded by sorrow, at least today.  So, on this day, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I would like to list them before Grief mutes me.

1). First and foremost, I am thankful for Peter. I am thankful I loved someone so hard, I mourn him so hard. I am thankful I was loved by him and loved until death took him. I am thankful for our unique and close and deep connection if only for a short time, for it was one not too many people have with another human being.  I am thankful to have basked in his genius, be in aw of his patience, touched by his gentleness, take in his physical beauty, to feel him, smell him, know him, and to share our children with him. I am thankful, I’ll always be thankful, to have been one half of our full partnership in life and all that meant.

2). I am thankful for my two children, the people Peter and I created, raised, and loved. I am thankful for their love, their independence, their brilliance, their confidence, their determination, their friendship, their help, their respect for humanity, and their constant presence in my life. I am thankful to see Peter reflected back in them and knowing, he will always live through them. And I am thankful they took on public service careers to give back to this earth, its people, for theirs are amazing callings. I am thankful for their own difficult grief because it shows me their enormous love for their father. And I am thankful God, the Universe, chose me to be their mother as it is a role I am honored and humbled to hold.

3). I am thankful for my tribe. I am thankful for the sister-friends who came running when I crumbled. I am thankful they stayed and helped me pick back up as many pieces I could. I am thankful they are still here and aiding me while I pick up what remains in order to create someone I don’t know yet. I am thankful for their unconditional love, their undying loyalty, and their unwavering support. I am thankful for the pillars they erected around me to lean on when I stand. Yes, I am thankful for the tribe, this tribe, one I could not have made it this far without.

4). I am thankful for my Barkley Block family who provided for me when I had no strength in me to roll over in bed, let alone cook a meal or mow the lawn. I am thankful to the women for our bond to share, to mourn, to support and to laugh. I am thankful for the men who still offer to do. or do, the chores Peter normally did – shovel the snow, get down decorations, change a furnace filter. I am thankful to hear all my Barkley neighbor’s stories of Peter because I see how he lives on in them. And I am thankful for these neighbors of twenty-three years, who have become my family, my Barkley family and came running when one of their own died.

4). I am thankful for my older sisters, a niece, and my Dudak sisters who rallied around me with phone calls, texts, how-you-doing inquiries. I am thankful for their concern, their offers and their hands stretched out to me, especially during times I needed to clasp them. I am thankful for quotes and stories and advice and checking in on me. And I am thankful for their love, straight out love.

5). I am thankful for my entire Dudak family, the ones also hurt by the death of Peter. I am thankful in their own morning, they still comforted me with outpours of love at unexpected times. I am thankful for those who supported my children and showed up for them. I am thankful for the multiple invitations to Thanksgiving and other get-togethers. And I am thankful to have married into such kind, loving people who I know will always be family to me.

6). I am thankful for my nieces and nephews, both Tobolski and Dudak, who have told me how much their Uncle “Pete” or “Peter” meant to them. I am thankful for their respect for him and their admiration. I am thankful for their stories and their reasons for loving him. And I am thankful for knowing Peter touched them in ways they may never be touched again.

7). I am thankful for the kindness from the people who helped me, including so many strangers, on this widow path. I am thankful for the tenderness of the moving men, the credit card lady, the furnace people, the insurance people, Peter’s co-workers, and so many people I did not know, will never meet. I am thankful for my lawyer and her office staff. I am thankful, very thankful, for my financial advisor – his wife who told me over and over they would take care of me and she didn’t lie, and their son – all who have who helped this scattered, but creative brain, navigate through a field of numbers, one Peter only traveled without stepping on any mines. I am thankful to all of the people who have helped for their patience with my tears, my frustrations, my anger, and my widow’s fog.

8). And, finally, I am thankful for all my friends – old friends, new friends, writer friends, Warrenville friends, blog friends, reader friends, and Facebook friends – who have given me words of encouragement and strength. I am thankful for the abundance of love I feel from their actions and their words. I am thankful I am accepted at the place I am at now, wherever that is, and the outpouring of their sympathies. And I am thankful they continue to be with me on this journey.

I know, today at least I know, I have much to be grateful for during this sucky, painful, dreadful nightmare I began five months ago.  I remember many blog posts back, I said Peter’s death had ripped away the gratitude from me, something that has always been a huge part of who I am. And it had. And it did.  Some days, most days, gratitude is still a distant memory. Yet today, at least at this moment, until Grief does its thing of pushing me down farther into this nightmare, I am reminded of all that I will be, should be, grateful for this Thanksgiving, even while on this hellish path of my reluctant journey.