Curled up on my personal side of our leather sectional with my laptop perched upon my lap, my iPhone 4 at my hip, I glanced over to my husband, on his side of the sectional, his laptop perched on the back of the couch. He started complaining about his job which somehow led to both of us whining about all the leaves in our yard and the excessive amount we pay each month for the rental of a storage unit. All while our children laughed as they ran through the house as we yelled for them to keep it down. Standard stuff. A normal day. Until we got the call…
My good friend’s toddler had just been hit by a car and killed. He was only nineteen months old. And everything seemed to freeze as the air was sucked out of the room.
Medical staff told my friend when she was pregnant that her baby boy might not survive. This was a baby who was born with a congenital heart defect, requiring two open heart surgeries. Then they said he may never walk. But walk he did. From there he ran, and not silently either. Oh no. He laughed and squealed while he ran, as if to say to the doctors and experts, “I’ll show you.”
And so the little boy who was not supposed to make it, not only survived but happily thrived in the care and love of his mother, family, friends, and dedicated medical professionals, charming all he met with his exuberant smile. A precious, tiny life who touched all who knew him. Gone much too soon.
Here we are at Thanksgiving and I find myself humbled. I have a home and a job that if I quit tomorrow, no one would go hungry. My husband at least has a job to complain about when so many have lost theirs. We have a bothersome amount of leaves in our yard but we are both healthy enough to go out and rake them up. And we have so much “stuff” that we have to rent out a storage space to contain it. My children are healthy and happy. And I still have a God who is good, even when I don’t understand all that happens in the world, even when I rarely have the answer to the question “Why?”
So this Thanksgiving I’m going to quit my whining about all the things I wish had, the things my heart longs for, the things that I most likely will never have. I chose to be thankful. And yeah, it’s a choice. Being thankful doesn’t come naturally to humans. It’s a learned trait. Anyone who’s brought up kids under the age of five knows exactly what I’m saying. We teach our children to say “thank you.”
I’m thankful for so many things but I am especially thankful for the little boy who touched so many lives in his brief life. No matter what complications he faced, no matter how many surgeries, doctor appointments, physical therapy treatments, he always faced it with a smile. There’s a lesson in there for me. In my faith, I believe I will see baby Riley again. And I have complete confidence that when I do…he’ll be smiling.
We miss you, Smiley Riley. You will always be in our hearts.
Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate.