thanksgiving blessings

Blessings Big and Small

A message from George Mark Children’s House CEO, Linda Ashcraft-Hudak

I recognize that appreciation is the path to gratitude. To appreciate, it helps to be in the moment and reflect on the goodness that is present. Here is my conundrum — being present and in the moment has always been a challenge for me. My mind seems to jump ahead or wander into the distance. Rather than a serene peaceful walk on the pathways of Hummingbird Hill, I am thinking about my “to-do” list, chores, projects, or assignments. Is this true of everyone

Given the environment in which we all work, we know how fortunate we are to be healthy.  Recently, the good fortune of a healthy mind and body was underscored when I learned that friend was scheduled for a life-saving surgical procedure.

Three weeks ago, my husband and I became caregivers for this friend after undergoing a liver transplant. For the past five years, she was treated for cancer. A year ago, she was told that in order to survive she needed a new liver. In October, a liver was extracted from the body of a healthy 31-year-old male who had died unexpectedly. After a successful procedure (an eight-hour surgery) and a seven-day hospital stay, she came home with us to recover. It has been an eye-opening experience.

Our friend takes 17 medications twice a day, not including the insulin she needs for diabetes. Blood pressure and temperature check, three times a day, testing the sugar levels in her system four times a day, and weighing herself each morning. Then there are the visits and sessions with the physical therapist every three days, the visiting nurse twice a week, the occupational therapist once a week, and twice a week laboratory testing. It is an intense regiment, all of which leads me back to my thoughts of gratitude.

We are all grateful for the big things in our lives — our families, and the health of family members and friends. We are grateful for a home to live in, a roof over our heads, food to sustain us, our work/job to fulfill us and provide for us.

In sharing the caregiving of my friend, I am finding that it is the little things that we tend to take for granted. Yet, those little things insure our quality of life. With this new realization and clarity, here are the things for which I am grateful. For you that are younger, I hope this list will be a reminder of the small blessings in your own lives:

  • Healthy organs that function at optimal levels
  • Mobility, running and walking, taking long strides without pain
  • Good balance
  • Kneeling, sitting, rising with ease
  • Clear vision
  • Hearing clarity
  • Nimble fingers to play the piano or pick up a button, pull a zipper, tie a shoe
  • An abundant head of hair
  • A restful night’s sleep
  • One-on-one time with a loved one
  • The ability to drive a car
  • The pets and animals in our life
  • Our education
  • Reading
  • Energy
  • Warmth
  • Clean air and water
  • Trees, flowers, grass
  • Soap
  • The ability to smell and taste
  • Friends

I so admire those that can meditate, or thoughtfully reflect. There is a calmness and sense of peace that emanates from my friends and colleagues that have cultivated the art of meditation and reflection. I aspire to that level of concentration, but in the meantime, I vow to be present and appreciate both the big and small blessings in life.

May your blessings be many in this season of thankfulness.

Linda Ashcraft-Hudak

P.S. If you have not already done so, consider becoming an organ donor.

Linda Ashcraft-Hudak is CEO of George Mark Children’s House (GMCH), The Center of Excellence in Pediatric Palliative Care. Among the many things for which we remain grateful — including our patients, families, staff, volunteers, and community — we are extremely appreciative for our strong network of donors who continue to support GMCH operations throughout the years. Thank you, thank you, thank you for enabling us to continue providing valuable pediatric palliative care and children’s hospice to those in need.