Holiday Gatherings Evoke Gratefulness for the Great Fullness of Life
As I prepare again to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, I am filled again with a deep sense of gratitude for the non-material riches they bring to my life – the laughter, stories and prayers that we share.
Thanksgiving, of course, signals the start of a season of gatherings among family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. This season offers us the chance to savor gratefulness while also experiencing the great fullness of life amid the cycles by which we measure our days, our joys, our milestones.
Melodie Beattie writes, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
As the President/CEO of Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice, I am privileged to witness this celebration of the natural cycles of life both personally and professionally on a daily basis. For, just as family and friends gather to welcome new life into a family, join their voices to sing “Happy Birthday” wishes or shed tears of joy as young lovers wed, so do families gather their presence to support, care for and yes, celebrate, the lives of loved ones with limited time on this earth.
One volunteer who recently lost a cherished daughter-in-law told how her family, amidst their sorrow, spent several beautiful evenings having “old-fashioned sleep-overs” at the hospital laughing, reminiscing and celebrating her life. Another patient’s daughter wrote of her family gathering around her mom, “Laughter and memorable stories enveloped the room, and through tears, we sang, danced, watched her favorite movies…and paid tribute to her every way we could think of. This time could not have been more perfect and we will cherish this week as we cherish everything else that made our lives rich with Mom.”
While Samaritan witnesses these life-enriching gatherings 365 days a year, we are especially mindful of the poignancy of supporting families facing the end of a cherished life around the holidays or providing counseling to those grieving during a season of festivities.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PH.D. writes, “Of all the gifts people can give to each other, the most meaningful and long lasting are a strong but simple love and the gift of story.”
So, as you celebrate each gathering this holiday season, take time to create memories that form stories that will enrich your family’s legacy for generations to come.
Take time to open dialogues, listen and record what each person’s wishes are now and in the future when health issues might prevent them from speaking for themselves. Our hospice provides easy-to-understand Advance Directive booklets. These guides assist families to raise delicate subjects — “talk turkey” if you will — and provide comforting roadmaps when the time to make difficult decisions arrives.
Take time to reach out for help if you are feeling overwhelmed in caring for a loved one or grieving a recent or past loss. Samaritan and many other social service agencies in our community stand ready to help during each important phase in your family’s life cycle.
Dr. Jill Henry has written, “Take the time to honor each stage of life, to experience each phase fully and openly, and then move on … cherish whatever season you are in, knowing that life changes, and you will be soon moving into another season, and another.”
By focusing on what’s important and experiencing each gathering in the great fullness of life, my wish is that each of us will enjoy the most meaningful season of our lives!