On the surface, I have had a challenging year.
In the spring, my cousin Henry has hospitalized for over a month. As I am his only remaining family member who is local, I became his primary caretaker. When he was finally ready to leave the hospital, I arranged for a rehab facility for him to re-learn how to walk. After rehab, when it became clear that he would not be able to continue to live independently, I researched assisted living facilities for him to move to. With the benefit of a NYC pension after years of work (he retired about 5 years ago), he fortunately could afford the much higher rent than what he had been paying in his Bronx apartment.
Meanwhile, I managed his personal affairs, paid bills and cleaned up a very cluttered apartment and storage unit (my cousin was, politely, a ‘collector’ and rarely threw anything away). Henry was reluctant to trust me with this responsibility, but I guess he eventually realized that he really needed the help.
Unfortunately, Henry’s stay in assisted living lasted less than a month before he was re-hospitalized. Again, his hospital stay was lengthy, and he ultimately passed on Sept. 24. Since that time I have been the executor of his estate (of which most of his assets will be passed on to his late sister’s children) and I have continued to work on his apartment and storage unit (which I will finally give up in the next few weeks).
So how can I find reasons to be grateful in this experience?
- if not for his neighbor who heard him calling for help, Henry would have died last spring in his apartment. Even though his medical issues eventually worsened, her calling an ambulance allowed me to have several months of a closer relationship with my cousin before his death
- While the process of clearing out his living spaces has been time consuming, it has also allowed me to find many fragments of my family’s past not only from Henry but from his sister Anna (who I was very close to) and his parents.
- When it became obvious that I would need help in handling Henry’s affairs, not only did I hire an attorney, but I renewed my relationship with two health care aides who faithfully cared for my Aunt Minnie for years until she died 5 years ago at age 98. Without their assistance, the process would have taken much longer – and been lonelier.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, remember to look for things to be grateful for, whatever is happening in your life. Go on a ‘rampage of appreciation,’ as recently suggested by Rev. August Gold in an inspirational talk (the idea originally came from Abraham Hicks). The more things you can appreciate, the more good you will find. And if you can appreciate what already exists in your life, you will find that more of the same will come your way.
And if you are lucky to have a job for a nonprofit whose mission you believe in, consider yourself doubly blessed.