Every year at the school I work at they have a Thanksgiving prayer service. Everyone writes letters to people thanking them for something and some of the students and teachers read their letters at the prayer service. This year one of the seniors read a letter to her mom, who is dying of cancer right now. It was very difficult for me to listen to.

In fact, I didn’t want to go to the service at all, because I knew she would be reading it and I knew it would be hard. Will told me that it might be good for me, but that it would also be pretty rough to listen to. I responded that I wish the things that were good for me didn’t always involve roughing me around. He said that if I didn’t need to be roughed around, then it wouldn’t rough me around. I hadn’t thought of it in that light before.

Grieving is awful. Even the word “grieve” is a horrible sounding word. It sounds like the name of a damage-over-time spell that a warlock would cast on you. But I suppose the sound of the word is the most accurate means of describing what it even feels like. There are times when I feel like the lining of my throat, the inside of my chest, and the coating of my nerves will be grated away to nothing before the end of it. I know, though, because people have told me, that it doesn’t ever really end, it just changes into something different. I know because they’ve told me, but I don’t really know yet.

When all my weird physical pain stuff showed no signs of going away, and when I decided that it’s just going to be something I’ll learn to deal with, my Soke told me that one of the easiest ways to cultivate happiness is to start giving open thanks for the things I have. The tiniest things, here or there, or the big things, just on the spot when I happen to notice them be thankful for them. It helps to actively do this, rather than fret and worry because I know I’m taking so much for granted, which is what I tend to do. My boss at work is one of those people of the mindset that time is a human constraint, and that God is timeless, so it doesn’t matter what you pray for and when, even if it’s after the fact, because there is no time in the end. I suppose in that line of thinking it is not “too late” to say thank you to somebody after they’ve already died.

Oh Nancy, I am so grateful that you were a part of my life. There is a rough balance because when something is so important to you, and such a part of you, you just accept it as there and thus it’s easier to take for granted.

I am such a lucky person, I had bonus parents! Some people don’t even get any, and I was lucky enough to have another set, and to have you. For as long as I can remember you were just a given in my life. Didn’t everybody have someone like you in their lives? Of course! It must be so, because it was just so normal, right?

Because of you I love unconditionally. I always assumed it was just stamped onto my personality, but looking back, you helped teach me to love and respect any living thing that wandered into my life. Dogs and cats and fish everywhere, and every one a beloved member of the family. I even remember the time you took in an abandoned litter of baby possums! They may be cute when they’re little, but anyone who can unconditionally raise a handful of the ugliest marsupials on the planet, and do so simply because they are alive and need to be cared for, is a powerhouse of compassion. You helped teach me to be that way purely through your example.

As you were dying and after you had died, Greg kept coming to me and saying, through tears, “I want you to know that she loved you…” Then he would pause as if about to explain what he meant more precisely, but moved on instead. I know that you loved me. You were always there. You were there at birthdays, Halloweens, Christmases, and all of my graduations. And, of course, 4th of July. How we didn’t burn down someone’s house I don’t know, but we made it all those years without any casualties! But you were also there on the normal days. The self-made holidays. So, I know you loved me through your actions, just as you taught me about compassion not through telling me, but through your example.

I am at fault as well, for I don’t think I ever said the words “I love you” to you until the very end. I remember standing and touching you, and dad reassuring me that you could still hear me, because hearing was the last thing to go. And so I said “I love you,” and it felt so fleeting, like I was trying to pack last minute things for you before you went. But I know that you knew I loved you, for all the same reasons, for all the time we had. Still, we humans feel that if we don’t verify that time with a seal of words that it’s missing something. I guess it’s just a human thing.

I remember the last time I saw you before you went into the hospital for the last time. You were over at my parents’ with Greg and Joyce and Jim, and you guys were having some kind of crazy wine tasting contest. I’m pretty sure Fleetwood Mac was blaring in the background. You guys were talking about music and when you said “I would totally do Roger Daltry,” I knew it was time for me to laugh and head home and leave you guys to your party.

I miss you. I will miss you on Christmas, and it will be really hard for me. I miss you I miss you I miss you. I love you. Thank you.

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