There’s a thousand ways you could learn how to be grateful.
But I only know one.
I’ll tell you mine.
The story of how gratitude found me.
I was 14.
Leaping, larking, on top of the world.
Driving home with my mum from a gifted & talented art program.
I was overjoyed.
I told her.
All my dreams are coming true.
I love my life so much.
I love this art program so much.
And these jeans?
These jeans fit me so perfectly.
And the sunset was golden,
and I remember that feeling of true happiness as we rolled into our driveway.
My two sisters ran outside to meet us.
they said, ashenfaced.
The police have just been. They want to see you.
Mum jumped from the car.
She said. Where is Dad?
They didn’t know.
And we stood uneasily.
Right at the edge of our universe, our world had begun to crack & we
didn’t know why. Or how. Or just what that thunder was.
The police turned up again moments later.
my mama said.
The two police lead her downstairs for a few moments.
We sat upstairs, holding hands, creased over with worry.
And then the moment I’ll always remember.
Walking down the stairs.
My mama’s white face.
The words she said.
“Girls, I’ve got some sad news. Clinton has been in an accident…”
And in the moment between one sentence and the next, I remember thinking:
“Okay, my big brother has been in a car accident. Well that’s not so bad. He’ll be okay. He’ll get better. These things happen.”
But then the next sentence swooped in.
“…. and he’s dead.”
It’s been 14 years and 10 days since that day on the stairs.
I still remember each moment.
I still cry as I remember.
The universe split open that day,
and its belly spilled forth.
A tsunami of pain, searing grief and loss washed over my family.
The moment I told my father the news, and he sank to the ground.
The look on my other brother’s face, rigid and grazed.
The nights we crowded into one room, crying, looking at walls
together, not really speaking, but not really wanting to be away from
each other either.
The tsunami took my life.
But then. But then.
In the days and months that followed,
as I walked along the seaside of my soul,
scavenging for the remains of my life,
I began to find them.
The treasures of the tsunami.
The glint of something else:
I began to talk to my brother.
Months after he died, I drove his small blue car down the road.
And there, sitting in the passenger seat, there he was.
Smelling like aftershave and cigarettes and sugar, like he always did.
“I miss you,”
“I know. I miss you too.”
And in the moment that followed, I heard what was true:
I’m still here.
Three months after,
we were handed our new choir song to learn.
It was a message from him.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush.
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
And so I learned to see him.
All around me.
There are a hundred million reasons the world gives you to fall in love with it.
Eventually, the world that you thought had cracked?
It had only split open to show you the magic inside it.
Where once you feared darkness, there was only light.
Miracles have happened every year since my brother died.
What I know for sure about death?
That it’s all a gift.
That we never lose anything.
And that our relationship with the ones we love can keep growing,
changing and blooming even when they are dead.
My brother has taught me many things:
He’s taught me how to love through the walls.
He’s shown me just how much he still loves me.
He tells me:
“You’re still my little sister, Bony.”
And then he digs me in the ribs.
Most of all, my brother has taught me how to be grateful.
When I was 14, I was afraid of death.
I was afraid of losing the ones I loved.
And then it happened.
And the world didn’t end.
In fact, it had just begun.
And it has gotten even more beautiful every day since.
I am grateful he was born.
I am incredibly blessed he was my brother.
And I am over the moon lucky that he died.
Sometimes, the thing we most fear?
Is the thing that we need.
We are always given what is best for us.
Even in the days it feels like a tsunami,
Scavenge the seaside to find the treasures.
They glimmer there, waiting for you.
Waiting to show you the truth about life, the truth about death,
and the majesty that lives between.
All my love,