Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.
Don’t get me wrong… I love Christmas. The cozy Christmas morning in your pajamas. The music that starts playing non-stop in mid-November. All my favorite Christmas movies… The all day marathon of The Christmas Story on TBS that never gets old. Scrooged. Elf. (“You smell like beef and cheese. You don’t smell like Santa. You sit on a throne of lies.”)
And I love Easter. The holiday of hope and forgiveness and spring.
And Halloween. Oh boy do I love Halloween! My 30th birthday was “Halloween in April” if that gives you a sense of how much I love Halloween. And now I am taking that out on my children as evidenced by Rosie’s FOUR (yes four) costumes she had on her first Halloween because I just couldn’t decide.
This year Lincoln only had one costume which I feel is a sign of progress. However, it was easy to decide what my courageous little fighter would be… the bravest little lion you ever did see…
But Thanksgiving… absolutely my favorite. Always has been. I love that there is a whole day dedicated to stopping and saying thank you… expressing gratitude for all the gifts in our lives. Pausing to look around at all the amazing friends and family and loved ones. No distractions like presents or Santa or Easter eggs or carving pumpkins. Granted, the dinner can take days of planning and effort, but it seems like an act of love… to say thank you to those people we are sharing dinner with… it’s easy for me to say that since I have made exactly one Thanksgiving dinner in the last 39 years! (This year will be my second, and I am largely outsourcing due to traveling for work this week!) But over the years my mom has made me feel loved with every turkey she has roasted and every potato she has mashed… heck she even humored me and made a tofurkey once during my vegetarian years! (keyword – “once”.)
We have a great tradition in our family which I know many families share, where we go around the table and everyone says what they are thankful for. We’ve done it for as long as I can remember. The week or two before Thanksgiving my heart starts to swell as I think about what I am going to say. Every year I feel like there is too much to say. And as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more emotional about it. I don’t think I’ve gotten through it over the last decade without crying. (I think there is usually an over/under bet on how soon I will start crying.)
There were the years that we were so grateful as our family continued to grow with the births of my nieces and nephews. There was the year that I was so grateful for health after two car accidents… which left me with some neck and back pain and physical therapy, but also with the profound glimpse of how fragile life is. There was the year (and all the years since) that we were all so grateful for my mom’s health after fighting breast cancer… after surviving breast cancer. There was the year I met David… our first date was on his birthday almost 10 years ago (December 22, 2003)… and that following Thanksgiving (in 2004) I got to say how thankful I was for our relationship with his family there with mine all around the same table. That same year I had just started a new job the week before which I was so grateful for… and I have counted my job and my work “family” as a blessing ever since… always thankful to have a career I love and that I am passionate about, and that year over year has challenged me to learn and grow… and especially during the economic downturn as so many friends and loved ones were struggling to find work, period. There were the years when we lost loved ones… which can bring a great sadness especially at the holidays… but also a deep appreciation that we knew such an amazing person. There were the years the towers fell and the years we were at war and all the years since… reminding us of the gift so many soldiers and their families provide each and every year. There was the year Dave and I got married and felt so very loved and fortunate to have such amazing people in our lives. There was the year Rosie was born. What a surprise and what a gift. My heart swells and my throat tightens just thinking about how grateful I am for Rosebud.
What will I say this Thanksgiving? How in the world will I find the words to say thank you?
How do I thank God for saving our son’s life?
How do I put into words the lump in my throat and tears in my eyes and swell in my heart that I feel every day when I see Lincoln smile? Or how his giggle reduces me to a puddle?
How do I thank my parents for watching Rosie for the six weeks we were in Philadelphia?
How do I thank my parents, my brothers, my sisters-in-law, my friends for coming to visit Lincoln many times a week for the month we were at Lurie?
How do I thank Dave’s parents for flying here immediately after Lincoln was born and changing their tickets home so they could stay longer to support us when we had no idea what the future held? Or thank them for flying to Philadelphia when we were living in a hotel? And for supporting us every possible way they could?
How do we thank Dave’s sister Donna, brother-in-law John, and niece Cat for coming to Chicago a couple weeks after Lincoln was born with the sole purpose of watching Rosie and giving her a fun weekend?
How do I thank my sweet nieces and nephews and sisters-in-law and brothers for loving on Rosie while we were so distracted that first month while Lincoln was at Lurie and then went into overdrive while we spent the following six weeks in Philly?
How do I thank my brother and his family for taking our old dog Henry into their home while we were away without us even asking them to do it and not even complaining even though we know that Henry is generally pretty cranky and must have thrown up dozens of times in their house during the 6 weeks they had him?
How do I thank my sister-in-law Kim for dropping everything she was doing one day to watch a sick Rosie so I could be at the hospital with Lincoln? How do I thank my sister-in-law Kate for driving my mom, Rosie, and me to the airport when I came home only to turn around to fly back to Philly with Rosie so we could spend some time with her before Lincoln’s surgery?
How do I thank my friends for not making me feel awkward when I asked if I could use their deep freezers to store my breast milk until we got back from Philadelphia?
How do we thank Dave’s sister-in-law Sue and her sister Trish for DRIVING from Florida to Philadelphia to support us and love us? How do we thank Trish for the photos she took of Lincoln in the hospital that we will treasure forever?
How do I thank my cousin Mike and his family for coming to visit a few days before we left CHOP and buying us a car seat and bibs and socks and all the other “normal baby things” that we all of sudden needed to make the trip home but didn’t have?
How do we thank our neighbor who got our mail and brought our piles of magazines and packages into our condo and did countless “housekeeping” favors for us the whole time we were gone?
How do we thank my parents’ friends who generously flew us home from Philadelphia?
How do I thank Dr. Zimmerman, Dr. Farrow, Dr. Robinson, Dr. Gupta, and all the other doctors at Prentice and Lurie who worked around the clock to stabilize Lincoln during the most critical time? How do I thank Dr. Paladino, Dr. De Leon, Enyo, and all the other rock stars in the Hyperinsulinism center at CHOP? How do I thank Dr. Adzick for operating on Lincoln and CURING HIM?
How do we say thank you to Lizzy and Anne and Kim and Beth and Sarah and Rachel and Nat and Jenna and Rosie and Dimitra and all the nurses who cared for Lincoln and cared for our family?
How do I thank our pediatrician Dr. Mikhail for being my lifeline while we’ve managed Lincoln’s care since we’ve been home?
How do I say thank you to my girlfriends who let me cry who let me talk who let me just sit in silence who learned as much as they could about a rare disease called hyperinsulinism so they could support me better who wore matching bracelets with me to remind me of “courage strength believe” who gave me cross necklaces and bracelets and cards to remind me that God was with me who sent me texts to make me laugh who drove from Kentucky and Indiana and even just the suburbs to sit with me at the hospital who took trains from NYC to Philly just to spend a few hours with me who offered for Rosie to move in with them when we had to move to Philadelphia who literally physically held me up at church when I was crying so hard that I couldn’t stand up who sent money and gift cards and stuffed animals and cute outfits and books and other gifts who reminded me daily that we would get through this and who I wouldn’t have been able to survive the last year without?
How do we thank our aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews and other extended family who prayed and prayed and prayed and found other people to pray and sent emails and went to church to light candles and then found other people to pray and then told classrooms full of little kids to pray and created a worldwide network of prayer warriors for Lincoln?
How do we thank our family at Soul City Church for holding us up in prayer and for being a rock for our entire family? How do I thank the friends from church who I never met in person and yet brought us meals made with love while we were at hospital?
How do we thank all our friends and family who came from all over to celebrate Lincoln’s dedication at church this summer?
How do I thank my work family for the generous meals and popcorn and cupcakes and meals to keep in the freezer and other food that kept us going? …not to mention the donated airline miles and hotel stays? … not to mention mailing me my favorite huge Deltak cup with a straw to stay hydrated at the hospital since I hated the cups at the hospital? … not to mention the support from both Deltak and Zapwater to actually keep our business rolling so we didn’t have to stress about work while we were focused on Lincoln? … not to mention the love and support and friendship from everyone at our work families who truly understand the priority of family?
How do I say thank you to my employer for my health insurance plan that provides such incredible coverage that our nearly 2 MILLION DOLLARS in medical bills will not leave us bankrupt?
How do I say thank you to our NICU “family”? Our friends who fully understand all of the twists and turns of the roller coaster? Who we will be forever connected to because of these experiences with our little fighters?
How do I say thank you to my husband, my partner, who rarely left Lincoln’s side even though I kept pushing him to go back to work? To thank him for never leaving my side and recognizing that I needed him even though I told him that I was “fine”? How do I thank him for letting me cry and cry and cry in those early days? How do I thank him for making me feel beautiful and loved every day even though I don’t feel beautiful and want to lose, oh about 40 pounds? How do I thank him for standing by me throughout postpartum depression, post-NICU anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and generally still not back to feeling like “myself” after a long eight months? How do I thank him for teaching me the meaning of “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health”?
How do I thank the hundreds of you who prayed and sent words of encouragement and who held us up through the 67 days we were in the thick of our battle? And who to this day make us feel so loved and supported?
How do we say thank you for the gift of clarity? How do we say thank you for the wake up call about what is truly important in life?
How? How do we say thank you for all of our blessings?
How do we thank God for saving our son’s life?
I am at a loss. My chest is so tight because my heart is going to explode. I have a lump in my throat every hour of the day and I am on the verge of tears because the gratitude is spilling over coming out of my every pore.
So here is my attempt… a blog… a letter… seemingly miniscule in comparison to how I feel…
2013 was the hardest year of my life… but 2013 was also the best year of my life. Thanks to each of you. Thanks to God. Thanks to Lincoln.
Happy happy happy Thanksgiving!