My gratitude diaries, like the shelves of my food pantry, provide staples for nourishment. By putting pen to paper, I note the ingredients—the essentials of the event or situation, which are stirred into a reflective mix and stored by date for future use.
On March 14th last year, I wrote: Is there more to writing about gratitude than the simple act of writing? Each entry marks a point in time— to be recognized, acknowledged and pondered. It is a way to separate the wheat from the chafe, which, in this speed-word driven culture is essential to my slowing down, reflecting and deliberating.
A full year later, my thoughts are the same, only more so. With the promise of an upcoming April birthday, I am aware of time passing. My mother died at 93; and I have every hope of reaching her mark or beyond. She and dad were close-knit, a traditional couple. Dad was the provider and Mom’s life was filled with tending to the care of her family and home. A widow for eleven years after Dad’s passing, she spoke with me often about loneliness.
I suggested she start a diary to put down and express what she was feeling. Mom found comfort in writing— at first, daily, then once a week and then intermittently for three years. From 1986 to 1989, she wrote in pen in graceful delicate script on lined composition paper. She numbered each page at the top and dated each entry.
Though lonely, she often wrote about her sense of gratitude. She struggled with physical issues—high blood pressure and heart disease—but along with concerns for her health, her wish for independence, her grandchildren’s choices, she wrote about being grateful, especially for the presence of her children, her appreciation of their care and concern.
I cherished the candor of her words. As she aged, she became more outspoken about her needs and wishes. As her eldest daughter, I felt inspired to help her live out her life in the way she desired. Her greatest wish was to age at home and most of all, to be of little worry to her children. At the age of 89, she wrote:
One more week in August, and summer will be over. It was a good one for me. I was able to do some things, which I was not capable of for some time and I am very grateful. I just hope and pray it should continue, as it is a good feeling to be able to act on one’s own.
After several worrisome falls, Mom agreed to a live-in companion. My parents, especially my dad, were frugal. Mom was grateful for his ability to earn and to save.
In her mind, during the years of her widowhood, he continued to provide for her. She expressed gratitude openly, both verbally and in her writing. In her final days, she got her wish; she lived out her life and ultimately died, with the help of Hospice, in her own home.