On January 13, 2007, my 5-year-old daughter died in a car accident.
I numbed out for the longest time. Eventually, as I started having a welling up of new emotions, a friend realized I needed help navigating them. She recommended I visit her friend, and Episcopal Priest, and a grief counselor.
I knew of grief. I had never quite felt it like this, before. So, I decided to take my friends suggested.
Now at the time, I had hit bedrock. I was homeless: A client for Coalition for the Homeless, I was temporarily on a week by week motel voucher. I had no transportation and very little funds, so I was to initially be counseled pro-bono if I could find the funds to catch a bus near her home in Colorado.
She came down the mountain and met me in town; I bused up from Denver.
I do not remember much of what we discussed about grief and its process. A lot of it I had heard already.
What struck me was my homework: I was given a journal and told to write in it... A Gratitude Journal.
A what!?! Was she crazy? I asked her... taken aback.
Let me get this right... I just lost my daughter. I am homeless. I have nothing to be thankful for. And you want me to do what?
She said that until I had found something to be thankful for, I would never find a reason to live. I would never find a life worth living. And, basically, I would willfully go the way of my daughter.
So... I reluctantly took my Gratitude Journal, "home;" I kept it with me as assigned to catch the slightest occurrence of thanks.
It did not come.
I was not thankful for anything. For the longest time, I had transported a blank journal with me everywhere I went.
Then one day, I ran out of food. The Coalition for the Homeless has a pantry. I was given canned food.
I had a microwave at the motel. I went to the gas station on the corner to find something to open the cans with... nothing. No silverware. No plates. No containers. I had very little cash anyway. So, I went back "home" to my motel.
I looked through my cans. A can of peas had a pop top lid. I popped it and poured out some peas. I had nothing to cook in, so I simply looked my cold peas, contemplating my next step.
I decided I should at least pray for my food.
Dear God, I started.... I am thankful for my peas...
I had an inspiring moment.
I got up quickly and rushed to my journal.
I grabbed my pen and wrote:
I am thankful for my peas.
And I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
Pages later, I was filling my journal with things I was thankful for. Page after page.
I do not recall even eating a single pea that night.
But I am still very thankful for those peas...