“I am truly overwhelmed. There are so many thank you letters to be written. Someone just mailed me 200 stamps because they know I have a lot to mail out. That took a lot of thought.” This was the response of my cousin Danny, who had no more than two weeks ago lost his wife, a mother of eleven. He has endured more pain, confusion, and sadness than I will ever know, yet still finds a way to be grateful. His strength and outlook on life is why I believe in never taking things for granted and being grateful for what I have.
Almost two years ago a terrible tragedy struck my family. My mom’s cousin, Barb, a devoted mother of eleven, home-maker, loving wife, and home-school teacher, died unexpectedly while rocking her newest baby to sleep.
This news shocked all of us. I never knew Barb that well; she was the wife of my mom’s cousin Danny and since my mom has about fifty-first cousins, getting to know them all is a challenge. But even though I didn’t know her that well, the impact I have seen of her life on so many others is truly amazing.
After her death, my mom, as well many friends and family chipped in here and there to help Danny out. Danny has a good job, but to support eleven kids, six of whom are home-schooled on his own with no one to stay home and teach them, and take of the house was going to be a great task.
My mom decided that she would help Danny out by doing Christmas for him. My mom, my sisters and I all went shopping, each taking one of the kids’ lists with us from store to store. On Christmas Day Danny called us immediately to thank us for all we had done. We also received thank you notes from each child.
We thought it would be nice to visit them a little later and let them show us their new gifts. That was my first time ever going to their house. One of my younger cousins Andrew pulled me from room to room showing me with great pride his bedroom, no bigger than a dorm room, shared with three others. As we were getting ready to leave and I went to give Danny a hug goodbye, I asked him how he was. He responded with “Ya know, there’s good days and there’s bad days, but we are so grateful for the outpouring of support. My faith is very much carrying me through, [my faith] and the faith of others.”
Seeing first-hand how someone’s life can be turned upside down but still find the positive instilled in me a new belief. It is because of my cousin Danny, his children and the legacy of love left behind by his wife Barb that I believe I am incredibly blessed to live the life I do. I try not to take the big things or the little things for granted. Believing and practicing are two very different things. Putting this belief into practice is something I strive to do every day. On days where I feel like nothing is going right and the world has turned against me, I will think of my cousins. If they can be grateful for the little they have been left with, I should be more than grateful for the wonderful life God has given me.
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