How do we nourish and maintain a grateful heart? My wife pointed out today on our walk that it is very difficult to keep the precarious nature of the world we take for granted in mind. We go through our daily routines trusting that the stove will heat the water for our morning coffee, the sun will come up, our house will be whole, things will be as always.
But there are these little reminders of the fragility that jar us from time to time.
Last night we woke up to another earth quake, a small but noticeable thump and rumble, and it put us in mind of the last big one we went through, and once again the light goes off in our heads and we remember to be grateful for what we have.
Or we learn that our close friends are divorcing because of an affair, and our own marriage is both more endangered and more beautiful because of it.
On friday I took a statement from the hospital bed of a sixty year old woman who had been raped and beaten and left for dead by her son. Through her shattered teeth she told me how he attacked her, turned on her, in a way that she simply could not comprehend. I spoke to the father, also beaten badly, who described finding his wife, naked and bloody, on his son’s bed, so badly beaten that he could only recognize her because of her colostomy bag. The daughter bleeding and dazed as well. None of them able to predict when they went to bed the night before that they would each awake to a utterly changed world.
Our blindness is willful. Not one of us can go through a day without a thousand reminders of our own sweet mortality, but how many of us live as if this day is the last and only day we’ll have?
If we could learn to do this, how wonderful could our lives become?
When I come home from a homicide scene, bone tired and shell-shocked, my secret is that the entire precious world glows with golden light, and when I gather my beautiful wife and daughter into my arms and breathe in the scent of them as the dogs whine and slap their tails against the floor and force their wet noses into us so that we will include them in our embrace, then I know more vividly than ever that I won’t ever know a deeper happiness, a more complete and tender love.
For them, for myself; for the living, and the dead that we will each become.