Grateful Memory

christa kelleherChrista Kelleher

It’s not like giving flowers will do it. Or sending a card with a heartfelt message.

How is it that such a compelling reason to express gratitude leads me to a quandary about what such an expression of thanks would actually entail?

Perhaps it’s because it feels like there just isn’t an easy, concrete, or even sincere way to express what it means to have been fortunate enough to have children….or to bring them into one’s life.

In my case, I gave birth to two vivacious boys after experiencing an early miscarriage before each one of them. The first miscarriage was particularly unsettling in part because it made me question whether I really could bring a child to life after having a first pregnancy end so abruptly.

I am immensely thankful for my body for making it possible to be pregnant and stay pregnant and do everything that it did for me to give birth. My body came through for me! I was “blessed in this way” and remember vividly Reverend Marta’s sermon several years back that referred to a woman’s not having “been blessed in this way.”

Yet I know that my body and the wonders of human reproduction are only part of the story here. On more than one occasion, Senator Elizabeth Warren has reflected on the often invisible and taken-for-granted ways in which “personal” success or desired outcomes hinge on something more than individuals themselves.

I know that giving life to children was not really about the alignment of biological stars – although that was part of it. Greater forces were at work. A loving partner. Wise, caring, and encouraging midwives. A health care system that functioned well. A capable and understanding obstetrician. Luck. Privilege. And more. But I’m never quite sure what it means to be grateful for this. It seems too big and unwieldy. And I don’t know how to direct my gratefulness. Or to whom. Sometimes I want to actively and in a tangible manner give thanks yet I retreat to thinking. To recalling.

Is gratitude simply about the act of remembering or is it more than that? Is it really enough to remember? I’m not sure it is even though it seems to be one of the key messages offered by Reverend Marta during her initial sermon on gratitude.

Whether it’s adequate or not, remembering offers a starting place and this may be what’s most important after all. Because flowers or a card won’t quite cut it.

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