Friday, October 28, 2016

Birthdays, love and gratitude

Yesterday was my birthday. For most of my life I have delighted in birthdays with the same gusto I had as a six year old, full of delight and eagerness to see what the year will bring and yes, a bit of ego and greed for my own day in the world. As an adult I have used my birthday as a way to reflect on the many lights in my life. I've been giddy with gratitude and perhaps the sugar in my cake.

When Kevin died all of that changed. The first birthday after his death I did my best to find gratitude but it was hard. Last year I resumed writing gratitude lists. And this year, the third after his death, I found I just didn't have it in me. I told myself it was because of work (three gigs and short deadline for another project) but really it was because it feels trite, writing a list of mostly the same things I say every year and really, who wants to read a list of 49 items anyway? Really, it's because I am having some trouble grappling with the fact that it's been this long since he took his last breath. Really, I am no longer the person who wrote lists like that. Maybe I will be again, but not this year.

None of this is to say I don't feel tremendous gratitude. I am grateful for Kevin, for his life, for the joy and struggle and sorrow, for his kids and family, for his light in the world, for his ongoing occasional presence in mine. I am grateful for so many people whom I love and love me. Cara and Stephen and Kristoff and Vered and Stan and Charley and Amy and Mary and Trish and Ruth and and and and. If I didn't name you it's only because there are too many to name individually. I am grateful for the peace my father and I found before his death. In a terrible way, I am grateful for my own widowhood because it drives me to write and allows me to be more present with my mother as she navigates her new, scarred world. I am grateful for work I love. I am grateful for the air and autumn and for you reading this far and.... I could list things forever, but I don't want to. You don't want me to, I'm sure.

Instead, let me ask you this: What are you grateful for? What limping gifts have brought you more love or peace than you ever expected them to? What scars do you cherish? What brings light into your world? I would love to know.

I'm asking because, writing this morning in the watery dawn, I need help. I am not in a painful place, but I feel adrift, so I need the reminder that I am not alone in trying to find light in the darkness. And because I am so deeply grateful for all of you accompanying me on this journey, today I find you more interesting that anything else. I'd love to know, what makes you breathless with gratitude?

With much love,

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. My children. No matter what, they are my light. I know that sounds trite but it's true. Because of them I have overcome so many hardships, they gave me the strength to go on when I thought I couldn't. They fill my heart with joy.

    1. I love this. It's not trite in the least, it's a tribute to you and to who you helped your kids to be and to who they are in the world.
      Thank you.

  2. I am grateful that I genuinely miss my father. That grief allowed me to remember people now gone as their best selves. Those are honest lies, and comforting. That doesn't negate or justify the unacceptable. It just makes those things irrelevant. So, I'm grateful for times that memory creates stories I can live with. Most of the time, I can.

    What leaves me breathlessly grateful? I have a younger sister I adore. We've leaned on each other supported each other through every type of hell. We still do.

    We were both young when our parents died, we both struggled with other losses, and we kept each other sane -- or at least our quirky version of what that word means.

    Then, she was diagnosed with two types of cancer, both at stage 4. One was likely treatable, the other was supposed to go into remission for 3-5 years.

    You can take all sorts of loss, but only so many shatters. After every shatter, you have to glue the pieces back together -- again. You know that "normal" will never mean the same thing --- again.

    My sister has now been in remission so long that we're pretty sure she's effectively cured. She has a new love, a new career, but I'm not sure that I didn't get the bigger reprieve. The thought of losing her was one shatter too many. And, yes, I am breathlessly grateful.

    1. Oh, I love this. Thank you.
      You articulate so well the necessity of those honest lies. And I am so glad you have your sister. You're right, we can only be shattered so many times. I'm glad you made it through.


True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Related Posts with Thumbnails