I’m feeling… thankful, at the moment. Tranquil? Content? I’m not really sure of the right word.
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting at the gate, waiting for my plane to arrive. My daughter’s high school dance team is traveling to Orlando to compete at the national level. All the girls are healthy, other than a few of them suffering from their sports-related injuries—my own daughter included. They’re giddy with excitement for what this weekend might bring them.
I watch them and can’t help but smile. They’ve worked so hard, and it all comes down to this. The ultimate competition. The finalé of the season.
But what I’m thankful for is not their competition and impending fun. It’s wonderful for them, but in the realm of life, it’s but a moment in time.
As I look at each of them, smiling and laughing, I’m thinking of their classmates back home. I’m thinking of my own children. Of kids and families everywhere.
We all have hardships. It’s a fact of life. It’s the way it works.
In the past few months, these girls in front of me have been witness to not one, but three very scary events among their classmates.
A seventeen-year-old junior, Sarah, was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma the week of Thanksgiving. By the time the cancer was found, it had spread throughout her body, and she was given a thirty percent chance of survival. The kids were devastated, and they all rallied around her. As she lost her hair, the boys shaved their heads, and the girls cut off at least ten inches of their hair and donated it to Locks of Love. It was a beautiful thing, and Sarah felt loved and supported.
About a month ago, another seventeen-year-old junior, Mary, was having headaches. While she was in the shower, her pain got so bad that she ended up slipping. She fell and hit her head. Upon arrival at the emergency department, she was taken into surgery, and the next morning woke up blind. She was not expected ever to see again.
I can’t even imagine that. I don’t want to imagine that. But that’s another story.
Once again, the kids at school rallied around their classmate. They worked tirelessly to raise money to help her through her rehabilitation. I’m so proud of them and their ambition to help.
The most recent health scare among the student body happened while at school. Last week, a sixteen-year-old boy, Bradley, collapsed during basketball practice. He was rushed to the hospital with seizures. For nearly three days, he was incoherent. If the time was 9:30, he read it as 9:00. His birthday is January 14th, but he insisted it was the 15th. He wasn’t even sure of his name.
Heartbreaking, isn’t it?
But these three kids, amazingly enough, are “coming around.” Sarah had a PET scan and other tests this week after finishing six rounds of chemotherapy. Her parents were thrilled to announce that her tests show all the tumors to be inactive.
Mary, just last week, started seeing shadows and light. And even better, she has progressed to seeing a little out of one eye. She even went to school one day this week.
And Bradley? He came home from the hospital and will be under constant observation by his parents, but he has regained his cognizance.
These three kids are the springboard for my current thankful mood. I’m thankful for their recoveries. I’m thankful for my own family’s health. I’m thankful for everyone around me, and even for all those I don’t know.
The terrifying moments, the joyful moments, the good moments—these are all what I want to convey in my writing. That’s what stories are comprised of. And like the three kids I just told you about, I want my stories to have happy endings. In fact, my stories always will, because I just can’t deal with the not-so-happy.
That’s the beauty of writing.
But unlike fictional stories, so often in life, happy endings aren’t the final outcome. We all know kids who did not beat the odds. We all have had our own health problems. We’ve all lost jobs, sent loved ones off to war, live with loneliness, abuse, or unfathomable things that others can’t even imagine.
These things don’t last forever, though. They end…one way or another.
So while I’m getting myself into the right mindset to write the next scene of The Flood, a story about a combat veteran trying to understand his PTSD, I’m fighting my elatedness. I want him to heal—right now. I don’t want him to suffer through everything I have in store for him. I’m too preoccupied being thankful for the good things and the happy outcomes to be able to put my character through hell.
But even though time is slipping away and I’m not getting any writing accomplished, I’m decidedly content with that. I’m enjoying this tranquil feeling, and I want to bask in it for a little while.
I’d like to share that feeling with you. Look around at your friends or family, or whatever makes you happy in life, and be thankful for it. Really thankful.
Think of what it might be like if that person or thing was hurt, suffering, or even, God forbid, gone.
It’s possible that could happen.
So be thankful for what you have right now. Relish the joy, even among all the other bad crap that’s happening in the world, in your town, even in your own home. Life works in cycles.
Bad times will get better; good times will get worse.
But always be thankful.