It’s almost Thanksgiving, a time of year when a lot of people talk about gratitude. I’d like to suggest we all practice gratitude on a daily basis. It certainly is changing my life for the better.
Today is my brother Eric’s birthday. It would have been his 53rd, but he celebrated only 21. He died when I was 15. I am grateful he lived, and I am grateful he died.
Eric had been my almost-constant companion at home for those 15 years: he couldn’t drive or keep a full-time job because of his epilepsy. As the youngest, I spent a lot of time with him, much of it just the two of us, as the rest of my siblings grew up and moved on with their lives. We were playmates, and we encouraged each other’s dreams of fast cars and self-designed mansions. We shared a great love for reading and especially for music. Oh yes, and chocolate too.
The last several years, however, my anxiety about his seizures overshadowed my ability to simply be present with him. I somehow knew he wasn’t meant to have a long life, and I decided that wasn’t acceptable. I was going to control the circumstances as much as I could, to protect him. While I loved him fiercely, I didn’t enjoy being with him as much. It was too much pressure. And so started the avoidance and denial, controlling behaviors, internal conflict, and guilt. When he died in 1988, I was momentarily relieved, thinking all that anxiety was behind me. Wrong. I just took those destructive patterns into other areas of my life.
Fast forward to 2019, the year of awareness and forgiveness. I realized the impossible job I had given myself as a child and forgave myself for that and for the psychological mechanisms I had unconsciously chosen. I forgave myself for all the bad decisions that flowed from those old patterns. I finally knew I was safe to let go of control, and I grieved the loss of my brother. And then I realized that he had never left. While I can no longer hear his human voice, I once again feel his spirit with me. He is so proud of me and happy that I am playing and singing again. And I am sincerely grateful that his main dream came true: his seizures were taken away.
Eric didn’t need to stick around in human form any longer. He already knew how to love fully and be grateful for things just as they are (as you may have read in my old post, Just Live). It’s taken me quite a lot longer to learn that lesson, but now that I have, I shed tears of gratitude almost every day for all the abundance I enjoy. The beauty of life is truly astounding once you start looking for it. We are surrounded by miracles.
So today, in celebration of my big brother Eric, I wish you awareness and gratitude for all the abundance in your life. Focus on that and watch as your heart opens and the quality of your life improves.