By Gregg Ratliff
I love Thanksgiving! It was always my father’s favorite holiday. He passed away on November 24, 1997. I found it to be somewhat ironic that while he loved Thanksgiving, he had a stroke on Thanksgiving Day and he was buried four years later on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. It just seems like more than a coincidence.
I suppose the reason my father loved Thanksgiving so much was because he knew how much he had to be thankful for despite his personal hardships. In January of 1933, during the peak of the “Great Depression” a fire took the lives of his mother and his sister, Laura. My dad was nine years old. The fire also destroyed their home and all of the contents. Shortly thereafter, my great grandmother moved in to their temporary dwelling to help take care of my grandfather, along with my father and his four brothers. Despite his injuries from the fire, my grandfather continued to farm and work on rebuilding a new home. Six weeks later, March of 1933, a tornado sat down on their temporary residence, killing my great grandmother and breaking my grandfather’s back. My grandfather lived for a short period of time following this tragedy existing with this horribly painful injury. So, my father and his four brothers were orphaned and divided up among relatives amidst the Great Depression.
My father never felt sorry for himself. He had an “over comer attitude” as did his four brothers. Some of them went on to own businesses, one earned his PhD and served as a University Professor, while one was a responsible manager for public utility. After my father died, as his Trustee, I discovered he had been financially raising orphans for many years and never told any of us. What a legacy. He was thankful for what he had and was “paying it forward.”
This morning I had the opportunity to take a short walk in the brisk, fall morning air. Ah, it was so nice. As caregivers we don’t often get this opportunity, nor do those diagnosed with ALS. But, as I strolled I began to reflect on the many things for which I am thankful.
My father never felt sorry for himself. He had an “over comer attitude” as did his four brothers. … He was thankful for what he had and was “paying it forward”.
As I walked I closed my eyes and heard the tweeting of the birds and smelled the aroma of “fall smells” including smoke from nearby fireplaces. I felt the gentle breezes and heard the trees swaying in the gentle breezes. It’s so easy to overlook these things unless you are robbed of those pleasures like Nancy was for several years. Then what about food, water, health, safety, things that Abraham Maslow referred to, as our basic needs? And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the important things like family, friends, a loving, caring God and oh, so many other things. Yes, the economy may not be as good as we would like for it to be, or we may not have as much in our savings account for the holidays as we would like to have or some of us may have even lost our jobs, but we truly do have a lot for which to be thankful.
So, if my wife, Nancy and my Dad, could find plenty of things to be thankful for, as we sit gorged with food, and surrounded by loving friends and family on this wonderful holiday surely we can find a lot of things to be thankful for as well. May God bless you richly, as I suspect He already. Have a very Special Thanksgiving.
Today’s blog post is part of a recurring monthly series from our good friend Gregg Ratliff. In 2009, Gregg’s wife Nancy was diagnosed with ALS, and he became her full-time caregiver for the next seven years. In his series, “Perspectives: It’s All in How You Look at it,” Gregg will share his insights on ALS and the impact it has on families.