GRIEF & GRATITUDE
Mitch loved his puppy so very much and it seemed as if Marlie loved him just the same. For almost 6 weeks Mitch had the very thing his young heart always wanted, a puppy to call his own. They bonded instantly … and differently. While she was cute and loving to us … when it came to Mitch she was almost maternal.
When I think of the many tender mercies in my son’s life, I can’t help but think this little girl one of the big ones. She knew just what Mitch needed at a time he needed comfort most.
The afternoon before Mitch passed away tiny Marlie, still a baby-of-a-pup, wobbled up to him and then pushed herself under his lifeless hand. Mitch, whose body was shutting down and unable to open his eyes, began to softly move his fingers through her hair. Marlie didn’t move a muscle – it was as though she knew he needed her … and she was not going to leave his side. Not for anything. I took photos of his hand softly caressing his little friend. I still cry when I see that photo sequence because I know just what was happening. As midnight drew near, and as Mitch was about to leave us, Marlie curled around his head as if to comfort him. I cry when I think of that image, too. I feel the strangest blend of grief and gratitude.
I have often wondered about the relationship between grief and gratitude. At first glance, they would seem polar opposites … as different from each other as oil and water, fire and ice, love and hate. Yet the more I come to experience grief and gratitude, the more I begin to see they play an important and symbiotic role.
Grief tells our heart things like, “How can I possibly find joy again when so much was lost?” Gratitude responds softly, “Yes, it hurts, but what a blessing it was, even if only a short time.”
Grief screams. It commands and demands. Gratitude whispers. It is soft and subtle.
Grief sees only what was lost, while gratitude sees what was gained.
What I have found most interesting about managed grief is that can lead to more gratitude; and where there is gratitude, there is healing. It is not easy. In fact, grief is one of the hardest forms of work we will ever perform in this life. So, as strange as it sounds, I am grateful for gratitude, for I have discovered that is a key to healing.
I am grateful for my wife and kids and that I was blessed with Mitch in my life. I am grateful for a broken heart, for it has taken me to my knees and taught me deeper things. This puppy … what a blessing she has been, then and now. I am grateful for this most unexpected place called Mitchell’s Journey.
Though I have come to know the pains of grief and loss, tonight my heart is overflowing with gratitude for the many good things in life. I am happier than I have ever been since I lost my son. Grief still screams inside me – and there are moments where grief is deeper than deep …. and I weep and weep. But I am also listening to the quiet whispers of gratitude. That gratitude is turning a once barren wasteland of sorrow into a garden of goodness. An invisible place of peace, not seen with the eye but a place where my mind and heart meet. Grief and gratitude are not so separate; at least for me, they’ve become one piece.