Thankful ~ Doing Life With Friends
As we reflect on gratitude this week, it’s hard for me to pick just one thing I’m most thankful for. My heart swells with the fullness of gifts I have in my life.
This Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for friends. My friendships fall into separate and distinct categories. There is some overlap, but no matter how I came to know those I consider friends, I’m grateful for each and every one of them. I have friends who live in my town, who I see often. I have friends who I consider acquaintances, who I know through my work in the counseling field. I don’t see them as often but when I do, it’s like it was yesterday. I have new friends who I am meeting in a new church I attend, The Well. I look forward to these friendships deepening as we continue to get to know each other and spend time in fellowship, prayer, and connection.
I have friends who are distant geographically but lifelong emotionally. I’ve always believed it was God who brought these people into my life. Even though they live far away and we no longer get to spend time together in person, they remain very close to my heart. We talk by phone or text and visit in person when we can. Some of them I have known for decades. One I consider my best friend forever (you know who you are).
Then I have my Facebook friends. They are all close to my heart too, and some of them, although we have never met “in person,” connect with me outside of Facebook too. We text each other at times or send each other cards and little gifts. I long to meet them face to face one day. I also have friends I knew in my childhood. We attended school together, or even hung out years ago and talking to them, on Facebook or by phone, brings back nostalgic feelings of a time when our worries were few. I’m thankful for them as well.
Some people don’t understand how you can feel close to someone when you only know them through Facebook. Others totally get it. My Facebook friends have been my strongest supporters through hard times. They are precious to me, and I am thankful for them.
This Thanksgiving, we are having our turkey, stuffing, and pie at the home of some very, very dear friends. I’ve lost count of the holiday meals where we have joined families and broken bread together. I’m thinking it may be more than six or seven times. It has been such a blessing to watch their two adopted daughters grow up before our very eyes. They’ve both become precious, beautiful young ladies. This family feels like “family” to us now. It’s a privilege and honor to journey through life together.
The story of how we met is interesting, and I believe it is one of those gifts from God straight to me. I consider them the closest thing to angels on this earth than I’ve ever met. In a newspaper article I wrote the day I got home from brain surgery, I called them “Helena Angels.”
It was October 2006 when our eyes first locked across a crowded airport. I was traveling with my husband, coming home from a horrific brain surgery in Los Angeles, California. The surgery had devastated me physically.
I woke from anesthesia to a Noah’s Ark world. One eyeball was turned within the socket, and now pointed towards my nose. There was two of everything, with one of everything within my view two feet up and four feet away from its exact replica. The floor nurses had cut out a piece of opaque plastic and taped it onto one side of my glasses with Scotch tape. This cut down on the double vision and hid the fact that I looked like a cyclops.
While in ICU, I couldn’t move my lower body. The nurses had to pull me up as I slipped towards the foot of the bed every few hours. I couldn’t walk so I was traveling home in a wheelchair.
I hadn’t been able to wash my hair because of the dressing on my head. I wore a knit cap to hide my oily hair as well as the Frankenstein staples in my head. In other words, I’ve looked better. I’ve certainly felt better.
As my husband wheeled me down jetway and into the Salt Lake City airport, we scanned the gate area for a “family” restroom. There was no way I would be able to navigate the women’s restroom by myself. I had no idea how I would get out of the wheelchair and into a stall. My husband would have to help me. We hadn’t tried it yet.
When you have major surgery in another state you don’t have the same support system in place that you would have if you went to a local hospital. I felt very alone and afraid. I was not prepared for what the future held post brain surgery. No one warned me. No one knew what would happen. We hoped my life would be spared. And it was. I was truly thankful for that. Now to make it home and recover.
For some reason, we couldn’t locate a family restroom (I know they are there, somewhere). I finally asked my husband to wheel me to the end of the long line outside the women’s. It was jammed with travelers who had disembarked a few minutes earlier.
Suddenly a woman at the front of the line turned and noticed me. I knew my face was filled with worry and weariness.Have you ever experienced the kindness of a stranger?Click To Tweet
She left her place in line came to where I sat. She bent down and looked into my face.
“Can I help you into the bathroom?” she asked.
“Yes…I’ve never done this before,” I said. This was way out of my comfort zone, but when you gotta go, you gotta go!
She told my husband she would take good care of me and quickly grabbed the wheelchair handles and wheeled me up to the front of the line. As women moved out of our way, I noticed the looks of sympathy and compassion. No one tried to stop us.
Kathy helped me into the stall and waited for me. Then she helped me back into the wheelchair and pushed me over to the sink to help me wash and dry my hands. I was so thankful to this lovely woman. She couldn’t have been more beautiful to me in that moment.
Later, I noticed her sitting a few rows up in the plane to Helena. It turned out that she lived in the same small Montana town as we. We chatted on the way home. She continued to be concerned for me and offered to help my husband to get me out of the plane and to the baggage claim once we landed.
The next day, high on steroids and feeling my oats, I wrote about her and submitted an article to the local newspaper. It was printed a couple of days later.
I didn’t see the woman and her family until six months later. We were at a spiritual event at the beautiful cathedral right before Easter. As we sat at a table with plates full of delicious food, I glanced up. I saw a woman looking at me intently. I knew immediately who she was. She asked me if I remembered her and her family. Did I remember them? I would never forget this precious woman and what she did for me at the SLC airport. So thankful!
We have spent countless hours together since then. We are now planning a “bucket list” vacation to Vermont next Fall together. My heart is filled with gratitude this year. When I think of this family, I can say from my heart, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3 NIV ( Click here for more).
What is one thing you are especially thankful for this year? Don’t worry if you read this after Thanksgiving Day. Gratitude and thankfulness are appropriate all year long.