One of the first words that our girls learned was “again.” When Emma and Claire were very little, if they liked what you were doing and wanted you to repeat it – they would say “Again!”
If you have little kids – or spend any time with little kids -- you know what I mean: Playing peek-a-boo. “Again!” Tickling their sides. “Again!” Pushing them on a swing. “Again!”
Never has the word “Again!” been more powerfully on my mind than right now. As I think about what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the ability to say and do “again” this year. To host Thanksgiving, to accompany the girls on Halloween and to the pumpkin patch, to celebrate the Jewish holidays this fall, to be at the girls’ bus stop when they get home from school, to cheer Emma at her soccer games, to walk the Billy Goat Trail, to play poker with the guys. I could list hundreds more activities. Pretty simple things. But things that I did not know I would be able to do this year, and I am grateful for the ability to have done them all again.
I am also grateful for lots of things that were “firsts” for me in 2008 – including Space Mountain, Bermuda, the GammaKnife and visiting the Golan Heights. This list is long as well, and I am hopeful that I will have the opportunity to say and do “Again!” for many of them in the months and years ahead. (More like Bermuda, less like the Gamma Knife. Although I am glad to know it is there if I need it again.)
I looked back at what I wrote last year on Thanksgiving. And I am still grateful for each of the things I outlined here last year. I am not sure I would say things much differently than I did last year. Perhaps I am just a little bit more grateful to be able to share last year’s posting with you -- “Again!”
Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Posted Nov 20, 2007 10:11pm
On Shabbat, Lisa and I talk with our girls about what each of us is thankful for that week. But on Thanksgiving, we tend to focus more on drinking, overeating, football and, in more recent years, karaoke.
This year is, well, a little different. And I wanted to let you know some of the things that I am thankful for. This Thanksgiving I am particularly grateful for:
• Waking up each morning, the summer-like weather we had through the end of October, and the beauty of leaves changing colors.
• The fact that I am not spending my time angry or bitter. That I can concentrate on getting well and enjoying life. That I laugh every day and have not lost my sense of humor.
• My brother Norm and my friend Steve, who are both doctors. When I could not mentally or emotionally sort through my options for treatment this summer, they, along with Lisa, did it for me.
• Michael Nissenblatt, the oncologist who treated me the second time I had cancer in 1984. Mike taught me then and reminds me now to look hell in the eyes and to fight back. His ability to inspire is unmatched.
• Memories of my mother. Her perseverance for years in the face of illness provided invaluable life lessons. If I am pushing my body too hard now, if I am spending more time with people than resting, if I am crazy enough to host 22 people for Thanksgiving two days after chemo, it is because I saw my mother push herself long after others would have quit.
• My sister-in-law Barbara, who has guided Lisa and me in addressing perhaps the most difficult part of our situation -- our kids’ emotional well being. Thanks to Barbara, we know exactly what to say when the girls ask tough questions.
• My team at Johns Hopkins, in whose hands I feel both comfortable and confident. I am so fortunate that JH is only an hour away from Bethesda. It has helped us to live a normal life in the most abnormal of circumstances – while receiving the best medical care in the world.
• The results of my scan on October 25.
• The pharmaceutical industry, whose discoveries are keeping me alive.
• That my side effects have been tolerable. I am really grateful that I can eat virtually all the foods I like – and that they taste perfectly normal to me. (Today it is worth pointing out – turkey is not a food I like. Never liked it. Still don’t.)
• The Washington Wizards, for not going 0-82. I am glad to have something to cheer for this season.
• Casey Jones, who has assumed so many of my responsibilities at CEB. He is an outstanding leader, with a huge heart and great sense of humor.
• Rabbi Greg Harris. He is a friend and teacher as well as a spiritual leader and provides me with incredible comfort, strength and a greater sense of purpose.
• Our family and many friends. The Beth El, Bannockburn and CEB communities. The well of support is much deeper and wider than I could ever have imagined. Your good thoughts, prayers, great meals and non-random acts of kindness have sustained us. We will be forever grateful.
• Lisa, whose beauty, strength, intelligence, persistence and compassion sustain me and comfort me every day.
• Emma and Claire. They make me laugh, make me proud, make me cry and make me scream. And when I look at them, I am reminded that miracles can and do occur.
For these things, and so much more, I thank God every day.
This Thanksgiving, if your parents are still alive, thank them and tell them you love them. If you have children, thank God and tell your children you love them. And reach out to a friend – maybe one with whom you have not spoken in a while – and say hello.
Happy Thanksgiving. With love and a heart filled with gratitude – Jerry