Gratitude in dark times

If you have ever listened to, or read books by some of the wise spiritual teachers in the world, you might have come along the encouragement to not only accept the challenges of life, but even to welcome them. Some go so far to encourage us to actually invite change and challenge in to our lives. Quite a stretch, wouldn’t you say? To actually ask for the painful events that we all go through at different times? Why would anyone in their right mind even think of doing that? Aren’t we all looking for peace and happiness after all? Well, the reasoning is simple. It’s through the painful changes in life that we grow and develop as human beings. So in other words, if you are wishing for personal growth, to learn more about yourself and the world around you, well, then theoretically you would welcome the pain. And see it as an opportunity to grow.

I am about to turn 50 years old, and I have not come to the point where I am actually inviting difficulty to hit me again. No, not yet. But, with the help of a very good friend I have arrived at the ability to be grateful for even the hardest of days. Even when I feel overwhelmed. When it simply feels like too much. Like I can’t handle it.

My friend, and in this case, teacher, was my best friend during the last couple of years in high school. I think of Lotta quite often although it’s already 31 years since she died.¬† She had quit school to work on a farm. She loved animals. So she came back to school a few years later, knowing she wanted to become a veterinarian, and we went the science route together in my high school. One of the many things I appreciated about her was her age. There was a maturity to her, she was six years older than me, that I connected with.

The summer after we graduated, she turned 25. I still remember the party and the joyful smile on her face. In the following spring, we were both attending university. She was following her dream and was studying to become a vet, and I was in law school. And then, in a split second, Lotta was gone. Just like that. She was on her way home to visit her parents for the weekend. As she stopped to take a left turn she was hit from the back, and pushed into on-coming traffic. She died in an instant. She got 25 years.  Only 25.

The last couple of weeks I have been intensely aware that I have been given the double amount of years at this point. I think it’s partly because of the numbers itself that it stands out to me. I feel deeply grateful for all these years, and that I still get to be here, experiencing love and life with family and friends. I get to help others live a healthier, more balanced and easeful life. I get to be mom to two wonderful teenage boys, a loving partner and a friend. I also get to be challenged and overwhelmed, to feel pain, to fall down and to stand back up. Lotta helps me to be grateful in the midst of the really hard times. Because when life is the most challenging, I remember that she doesn’t get to be here to experience any of it. She doesn’t get to be challenged or to feel the pain. She doesn’t get to have her heart broken, face illness or miss a loved one. She also doesn’t get to feel deep love and connection with other human beings. She doesn’t get to smell the lilacs like I did just earlier today. I know I can’t have one without the other, I can’t have the beautiful, enjoyable and lovely times without experiencing the rough, painful and dark stuff. And I don’t want to be without any of it. I just wish I could have shared all of it with Lotta.