By John Aubin
When Amy got sick, the first thing most people said is: “Is there anything I can do to help?” The question was more sincere from some people than others, but for the most part, people want to do something; they just don’t know what they can do. It turns out, however, that it is a lot easier to ask the question than to answer it.
The first problem was I had no clue what I needed. I knew I was in over my head, but I can’t really ask for more hours in the day to sort things out. The second problem is you really have to gauge is whether it’s a genuine offer, or just small talk. To the enormous credit of my friends and family, it has rarely been small talk. Most want to find a way to help; they just want to know what you need.
It always amazes me how it often takes something horrible to happen for people to realize just how much they have to be grateful for. Amy and I have many of the same friends and family we had before she got sick, yet we had no idea how lucky we were to have such wonderful people in our lives until we needed them. Now don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of my friends are wonderful people, and I know both my family and Amy’s family would do anything for us, but there is a difference between knowing it and seeing it in action.
The real problem, however, is guilt. Even though you have these wonderful people in your life, who have made genuine offers to help, you still feel bad asking. It’s hard asking for charity (I have been told dozens of times that this is not charity, but it sure feels like it), and what if you ask for more than the person was willing to give. That’s an awkward situation, but it didn’t take long for Amy and I to realize that we can’t do it all by ourselves. She was too sick, and I can’t work full time and be at home to take care of her (I am terrible at being in two places at once).
It takes a long time to learn that in this situation, much like most situations, guilt is useless. When you support someone suffering from cancer, you have enough on your plate. You don’t need to imagine reasons to feel worse. The equation is pretty simple. You need help. People love you, and want to help. Asking for help actually makes everyone feel better! IT’S WIN-WIN! But you are always grateful, and you will always feel a little guilty, because you are never able to show just how grateful you are.
When it comes to gratitude, it is important to reflect on what you have, not what you are missing. While our situation does leave a lot to be desired, we have each other, and a healthy and happy child. Our situation is hard, but there are those who have it much worse. I am grateful for what we have.
Finally, no blog about gratitude would be complete without me saying thank you. Below is a paragraph of thank yous to basically everyone. It is grammatically unsound, and it is probably kinda boring to anyone but me, but I tried to write this blog several times, and it just turned into a thank you note to friends and family. The only way I could make it work was by taking on this paragraph at the end. Think of it as the acknowledgments at the end of a novel. If you want to skip it, you can consider this the end of the blog, if not feel free to read it over.
I try not to name anyone (except my wife), as when I tried doing this while naming names, I had pages (literally) of names, and I knew I would miss people, which is simply not fair to anyone:
Friends/family who stop by for surprise visits to lift Amy’s spirits, or drop off a cooked meal, so I don’t have to do it. People drop everything they are doing to take Amy to appointments, thus saving me a vacation day! And so many other things both big and little, that make my life easier.
I’m grateful to the people, some of whom are even strangers, who tell me they are praying for Amy (I’m not a pious man, and have not put much thought into the power of prayer, but I am touched that those who are are thinking of us, and helping us the best they can).
I am grateful to you for reading my blog, and I appreciate all the feedback I have gotten so far.
I am grateful for my employers and co-workers who are understanding when I am absent, or having a bad day at work. I’m especially grateful to a group of co-workers who threw me a surprise birthday party a few weeks ago.
EVERYONE who has wished us well, and there are so many of you, I thank you all!
MY FAMILY! Both on my side and Amy’s! The idea of doing this without their support to me is comparable to climbing a mountain with bare feet. It is highly doubtful I’d make it very far.
I am grateful that my daughter is a trooper. She rolls with the punches in a way that no seven year old should have to.
I am grateful for my wife. I love her! And she loves me! Really, is there any better reason to be grateful than that?