Even with hat hair in January in Canada we look great. Jo & me

This is Jo-Anne. Well, it’s Jo-Anne and me. Jo-Anne and I have been exchanging 5 gratefuls every night for, as near as we can figure it, almost six years. That’s a lot of gratefuls. It’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of 11,000 gratefuls. If you can imagine what $10 in loose pennies looks like and then multiply all those pennies by eleven you would get one penny for every grateful we’ve exchanged. That’s a lot of gratefuls. Confused? Let me clarify.

A grateful is a statement that begins with either ‘I am grateful for….’ or “Grateful that …” For example: ‘Grateful that I will be in Mexico in 5 sleeps.’ That one Jo-Anne sent the night before Toronto was to be hit by another snowstorm. Thanks Jo. Another example of one too often exchanged is ‘Grateful for a good sleep and to wake up feeling somewhat rested.’ Anyone who has lost a loved one gets that one.

Sounds like a fun thing to do, doesn’t it? Well, when I first proposed that Jo-Anne and I exchange emails at the end of the day I was struggling and it was far from fun. It was me trying one more thing that might help me wind up my day on a positive note. I desperately wanted to find a way to shift my thinking away from all the loss and the fallout that had accompanied the death of my brother and husband 18 months apart. Jo-Anne, like me had been one of those women who rarely gave up, solved life’s problem as they arose and greatly enjoyed her life. Also like me, she too had been recently widowed. Grief had swung it’s two by four and left us both fighting to get up back up. And we were both determined to do just that. Determined enough to give this idea of mine a try. Thanks for humouring me Jo. I know it seemed pretty out there at the time. But then anything was better than maintaining the status quo.

Interestingly, it wasn’t until we spoke about me sharing this thing we do on my blog that we actually talked about how it all started, what it’s meant to us to do this over the years and how we intend to keep doing it until something robs us of the ability to do so.

It made me smile to hear Jo-Anne say that she remembers sitting in front of her laptop and wondering what kinds of things was it that I wanted her to come up with – like I had any idea. And that five seemed like an awful lot of things to come up with. I told her how it gave me a sense that someone was just kind of checking in on me and making sure I was still alive. When you’re widowed you suddenly realize that you are alone. It was somehow comforting knowing that someone would check up on me if I missed my gratefuls because I’d slipped in the shower and broken my leg and couldn’t crawl to my cell phone. Strange, but, oddly also true.

We talked about how on bad days, it could still be hard to come up with five, but that having to come up with five helped keep things in perspective. We laughed about when one of us miscounts sends four and get called out for it. We love it when the gratefuls flow and suddenly there is an extra one or two. It’s always nice to know the other is having a good day. It’s allowed us to keep in touch and know about each other’s day-to-day life. It’s become a very good thing.

Jo and I met at a grief group, and then again at a grief walking group and like so many other widows and widowers we began hanging out together, at least until Jo-Anne moved. Without exchanging gratefuls I doubt we would have stayed in touch. But because we have, through our gratefuls we’ve cheered one another on, witnessed further losses, and celebrated the birth of my grandson and the many, many accomplishments of her grandchildren. We never write Facebook highlight reels. On the one hand, it’s not necessary when you’re grateful for an accident free drive to and from the city or a good book or to be heading to bed after a warm bath or to get out and walk in the sun or tea with a friend or a long chat with each other. On the other hand by keeping it real our gratefuls have often become opening lines for much more involved conversations. This is especially so when one of us is grateful that someone has been admitted to the hospital and is being well cared for or when one of us is glad to be there for a friend who is hurting.

We never got around to discussing all that we’ve learned by doing this. Way too heavy. But, we both agreed that not only would we recommend finding your own Jo-Anne or Heike to do this with but that we actually now look forward to doing them. It has become a really good way to wind up our days on a positive note. So as I wind up this blog, I suppose it’s only fitting that I close with a couple of gratefuls. I’m grateful to be able to connect with others through my blog. I’m grateful to have wonderful friends in my life who strive to build their own ‘good’ lives and of, course, I’m grateful for Jo-Anne; without her I wouldn’t be where I am today, not to mention I’d have to come up with something else to blog about. 😉 Stay well, Heike