good life – by jenny meyerson
Part of cultivating a good life is being grateful despite our circumstances.
My daughter Emily was only 18 months old when I was first diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully, she has no recollection of that time. After a few scares of recurrence over the last two years and finally clean scans, our family has slowly returned to the normal routine of life. Emily, however, found that transition difficult. She struggled to understand the fairness of the disease and this led to some understandable feelings of fear and anger.
My husband Jeff and I sought to comfort Emily and answer all of her thoughtful questions. We found that we weren’t always able to give her the perfect “everything is going to be ok” answers she craved. We did, however, tell her over and over that we were grateful, despite everything we had endured. We were grateful to be able to have tough conversations with her and grateful to have such a passionate, 10 year-old daughter who desired to right the world of disease and injustice.
Jeff and I started to practice the act of daily gratitude with our four children. We desire a life for our children filled with gratitude and hope for the future, not being enveloped by the fear and bitterness that difficulties can bring. Every night at dinner we stated what we were grateful for. And despite a lousy day or a bad test result, we could always find multiple things.
- “I am grateful for Cocoa Puffs. They make my belly button happy.”
- “I am grateful for new art supplies.”
- “I am grateful for the huge, dead tree in the front yard. Some people aren’t lucky enough to even have a dead tree.”
Soon the fear started dissipating and the joy of Emily’s infectious grin returned. Emily and I started writing our daily gratitudes on tags and hanging them from the brittle branches of our dead tree.
Emily’s grateful tree is beginning to blossom with over 400 tags. Hopefully the tree will hold the other 600 tags we have left to hang. And I have never been so grateful for second (and third…) chances for our family and our tree. Working on this project has convinced me that gratitude is a choice, requires consistent practice, and is contagious.
Since hanging tags from our trees, we have met many of our neighbors. Unfortunately, all of us seemed too busy before to really take the time to get to know one another. A simple tree, pieces of decorated paper, and a 10 year-old girl with a grateful heart has changed that.
Life is good.
Note from Becky
Don’t worry – I’m drying my eyes, too, over here. I am deeply moved by what Jenny has shared with us. I have been personally affected by cancer in many ways, as I know many of you can relate also. My dad and one of my brothers have triumphed over cancer’s threat, but another brother lost that battle just a year and a half ago. One of David’s brothers is currently fighting the battle. One of our very best friends is in the ICU right now with a brain tumor that keeps coming back.
Cancer sucks. (And so many other diseases of course.) I know we all feel that way. But I have an intensely strong testimony about gratitude and the role that it plays in helping us to cope, endure our trials with grace, and even thrive as we get through the hardest times.
Jenny is a remarkable documenter of life and a scrapbooker. She takes phenomenal everyday photos (you’ll see this in her social media) and has a gift for telling stories – not only in words but through the lens. I am honored to have met Jenny a few years ago (she’s local to me and lives right here in the Phoenix area) and I have felt a connection with her ever since. We’ve seen each other in person probably just 2 or 3 times, but I absolutely call her my friend.
Oh – and if you want to see something that will make you love Jenny even more, watch this. It’s a very happy way to spend 2 minutes and 21 seconds. Be sure to gather the family around to watch, too.