Honestly, gratitude wasn’t the first feeling to enter my mind when our three kids started arguing in a tightly-packed car yesterday. We hadn’t even left the driveway for our long trip up I-65 on the busiest travel day of the year when it began.
But all I have to do is close my eyes and picture what I saw earlier this week:
A beautiful little girl who will never again argue, talk back, whine or cry when something doesn’t go her way – or giggle with joy when it does.
Purple flower petals scattered in the casket on top of her beautiful dress that is finished twirling; a crown of flowers covering her precious, bald head; and pink cowboy boots that will never get ruined by running through mud puddles.
There are no words to describe this kind of heartbreak.
I know the doctors and hospital staff members did everything they could to try to save this little angel. When that was not possible, they did everything they could to provide support and comfort to the family.
What can the rest of us do?
I did the only things I could think of. I paid my respects. I brought the family some beautiful photos my team had taken of their little girl. I told her father I would never forget her, and that they had made a difference for others by sharing her story. I made a gift in support of Riley’s pediatric cancer research team in her memory. I prayed that these physician scientists will find better ways to treat these terrible illnesses.
Then, I bought my own children a few frivolous gifts – things I always say “no” to. I watched them breathe as they slept. Each breath looked like a gift.
Yesterday’s road trip was hard. Sibling fights are stressful. We all get burned out.
But this Thanksgiving, I have never been more thankful for my wild, arguing, difficult children.