I would’ve liked to have had a different life. Different in that I would’ve liked to have been born without a progressive motor neuron disease, to be able to take care of my own daily needs, and to have my own family and home. But I would not like to have had a different life in terms of what really matters — love and joy.
What I’m most thankful for is the love that I have known, that I have received from my family. There are millions — billions — of people who can walk, hold down a job, and feed and bathe themselves. But they’ve never known that they are truly, deeply loved. That’s real tragedy. I’ve always known that I am loved, a wonderful and beautiful gift, and I’ve also been taught a great lesson by my muscle-weakening disease.
I have learned to appreciate what I have.
Thankfully, I have not yet known the mourning loss of an intimately close loved one, though I have mourned the loss of grandparents, a favorite great aunt, and, just last year, a friend. I have, however, experienced the very intimate loss of my own physical abilities every year of my life. I used to be able to sit up without being braced, to brush my own hair, to brush my own teeth. I used to be able to pet a cat and turn the pages of a book. Over the years, I have slowly lost these abilities, including the ability to feed myself. First, I could no longer pick up a cup to hold it to my lips, not even with two hands. So I started drinking through a straw. Then, I could no longer hold a sandwich to bite into it or put food onto a fork and bring it into my mouth. Year-by-year, these simple acts became more and more difficult, more and more exhausting, until they finally became impossible.
Take nothing for granted — this became my great lesson. Be grateful for what endures — this became my other great lesson. And what has endured through all of my physical deterioration has been my imagination and, first and foremost, the love of my loved ones.
The strength of my loving family made it easier for me to adapt to my lessened physical strength. And as I grew and matured, I could clearly see that it is my family who gave me and gives me the greatest joy, far more than any pleasure of warming my hands up around a cup of cocoa or even rubbing my own eyes. Pleasures are nice, very, very nice, but love is sublimely good. I am eternally grateful for the strong and enduring love of my parents, my sister, and all of my family. I’m grateful for the loving appreciation that I have received from friends, and even from strangers who have read my blog or my book, or who have simply seen me smile.
To return such love in any way is the greatest ability. And joy.
On Thanksgiving, it’s traditional to give thanks for family and friends, food and shelter, perhaps even adequate transportation and good healthcare. But … sadly … these are not treasures that last forever. Things can change.
Growing up with constant change and the constant loss of abilities, I know that the situation of my life can alter and cause difficulties. Appreciative as I am, especially of my parents’ loving care, I recognize that there are people who are worse off than I am. This knowledge produces gratitude. The knowledge that I could end up in such a worse state myself produces fear.
The more grateful I am for what I have, the more worried I am of what I can lose.
Gratitude is scary sometimes.
That’s why honest gratitude requires humility — it’s not all about me. If we are truly grateful for what we have, then let’s also be truly grateful for what we can give. Honest gratitude also requires trust, trust in the One who is the giver of all good things, trust in Love itself — Love Himself.
Navigating my gratitude and true appreciation for all that I have, especially my loved ones, without worrying and fearing that I will lose them is the subject of the following video. (I try to make one of these a month, usually shorter than this 11 minute one.) I hope you have the time to watch it and reflect with me. May you be honestly grateful this Thanksgiving.
Grateful for you,
© 2022 Christina Chase
Christina Chase View All
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.
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