It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes. Despite the quickening flow of time some memories remain vivid and ever present. May will mark the six year anniversary of my sister Joan's passing. It still seems like yesterday she was with us. Many may find it hard to imagine gratitude can be present even in the sorrow of a loss but for me gratitude was present through the entire process of her dying, death and the time after.
To understand the gratitude I have you have to understand Joan a little. I would be lying if I said she was a saint. She wasn't. She was a human being like the rest of us. Stubborn, vocal, funny and all the other human strengths and failings. There were times when I didn't like my sister's selfishness and there were other times I was amazed at her selflessness. She was a mother, wife, sister, daughter and an aunt. She held close what was dear and drew daggers against anything that threatened those important to her. Most of all Joan was a person who took a great deal of pride in her independence.
Joan became ill very quickly. In all the process took five months. We saw an independent, self-sufficient woman become reliant on her family to care for her literally overnight. She needed someone to wash her, move her to the comode, clean her, dress her, clean her medical devices and hold her hand through panic attacks. The most amazing thing through this process was her gratitude. She was truly grateful for all of us being there. She was grateful for the care being given to her when she could have just as easily been resentful of needing the care. There was never a day that she did not say, or at least mouth, "Thank you" for each and every thing done for her. Her sense of gratitude despite the hardships she was enduring was humbling.
In the end Joan taught me more about gratitude in those fleeting months than anyone had taught me in all of the preceeding years. Her gifts to us were more than just a greater understanding of gratitude. She gave our family a gift of closeness we had not known in decades.
Of those five months what I remember are those constant moments of gratitude from her. I still see her with a soft smile mouthing the words "Thank you" and genuine appreciation in her eyes for things I would have done gladly, without a word of appreciation, for no reason other than I love her. For me it's hard to really say she's gone. Her gratitude and the lesson she taught me about its true meaning are now a part of who I am.