The Grateful List

My Aunt Suzy, who is a truly enlightened person from my perspective, sent out her Christmas greetings this year by sharing her “Grateful List”.  I was so touched by this that I asked if she would mind if I posted it on my blog.  This ability to look at what’s right in your world, to appreciate the people and the beauty around you, can make such a difference to your own feelings of well-being and to the contribution you can make to everyone you touch.  We all have frustrations and hardships that we must face in life but we all also have wonderful gifts and people.  The more energy that you devote to the latter, the more positive the energy that you radiate both inside and outside of yourself.  This does not always come natural to us.  It takes commitment and perseverance.

So, here is Suzy’s “Grateful List” for 2010. 

As I look out onto the pure white landscape with snow laden trees and buildings, Xmas lights shining through, I’m once again reminded of how extraordinarily beautiful winter can be in this part of the world, and how lucky I am to enjoy it all. 

I’ve read and heard in the various courses I take what ‘good medicine’ it is to practice thankfulness, and I am a believer:  it’s a wonderful way to get the warm fuzzies, putting your mind to all that is good in your life.  So this year, instead of a letter I’m sending you my Grateful List, as a way of sharing with you matters to me.


  •  the discovery of a new hobby – walking.  I’d never taken the time to just walk, and this spring, summer and fall were utterly perfect for my newfound activity; even now that we have winter I’m enjoying walks along the trail – I never realized how lovely it is to just simply ‘be’ out there, with no phones, no noise other than the birds, no talking (well, I do talk to Aub on our morning walks), no pressure – just absorbing the energy of nature around me and being alone with my thoughts.  Author Sarah Ban Breathnach says “…I walk regularly for my soul, and my body tags along.”  I know exactly what she means.
  • the gift I was given this year of a health challenge (pacemaker implant, then blood clot at the insertion site), which afforded me the opportunity to take an extended leave of absence from work.  As a result, I was able to spend many precious hours with my mother in her last two months.  She died very peacefully in her sleep in March, having made a remarkable and beautiful transition from believing she would get well and go home, to accepting the next step with courage, curiosity and grace.  It was an honour to walk with her on her final journey.
  • the wisdom of my friend and colleague Jane, who upon returning from another mission in Haiti affirmed that it’s the small acts of contribution we do day-to-day which truly make a difference. 
  • the fact that life continues to surprise me.  After struggling with the decision of whether or not to retire, I did so in July and have been amazed that after 40 years of looking after other people I am finding great satisfaction and serenity in just looking after me.  I’m not the slightest bit bored, and am astonished at how quickly a day goes by.  I would have thought I’d have had the cleanest house in Listowel by now, but so far I’ve cleaned one closet and am learning to make peace with dust bunnies.  It has been unexpectedly the easiest transition of a life stage I’ve ever made.
  • the contributions to my life that all of my family have made – my husband, sons, Casey, my sisters, their mates and families, my brothers-in-law, their mates and families, my Earle relatives … and the best mother-in-law on the planet.  I grow more and more appreciative of how lucky I am to have their love and support.  And they’re all such interesting people!  I picked well this time.
  • likewise, the encouragement and support from my many wonderful friends – every year of course, but this year in particular.  I think it takes a village to shepherd someone through the minefield of grief.  This year my friends were enormously helpful shepherds, and genuinely caring friends.  I’m getting good at picking!
  • the ability and opportunity to attend the various courses and lectures with my spiritual sisters – it’s such a gift to enjoy their camaraderie while getting my spiritual batteries recharged.
  • that Aub had the joy of playing the best round of golf in his life last summer, shooting 5 under par!
  • that a lovely young couple has moved into Mom’s little house, are fixing it up and making a wonderful home, and that there will soon be a baby in it for the first time in decades.  Mom would like that very much.
  • that for once in 40 years I was able to say (albeit for a brief time), “My Leafs are undefeated!” 
  • the gift of receiving and reciprocating love from 2 special cats –Ripley and Pax, who both went to heaven this fall.  Ripley, who finally used up all nine of her lives at the age of 13, but not before giving me much extra special attention when I was grieving for Mom.  Although she hadn’t been an overly affectionate cat, during those many months she would climb up on me until her body was fully against my chest, front legs over my shoulders as though she was hugging me.  And little Pax, a stray kitten I fell in love with at first sight, who succumbed to Feline Leukemia after going blind.  He was the most affectionate cat we’ve ever had, preferring our attention to food.  Though he was only with us for 4 months, he inserted himself right into our hearts.  I am grateful to have known that little guy – and to be reminded of the lessons animals have to teach us.   About unconditional love; about not thinking too much; about finding joy in the simplest things; about being perfectly happy with just a full tummy, a toy, a snuggle and a warm soft place to sleep. 

 Seems like a good place to stop for today.  Tomorrow there will be other things on my Grateful List – many the same, some new.   It’s a very worthwhile way to occupy the mind, and infinitely more satisfying than listening to the news or worrying about what-ifs. 

The Dalai Lama says:  “If you want to know what you were doing in the past, look at your body now; if you want to know what will happen to you in the future, look at what your mind is doing now.”   My wish for you this Christmas season is that your own Grateful List will be carried with you in your hearts, revised from time to time, but remembered often.  And that it will always make you smile, inside and out. 


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