A Legacy of Gratitude
Thankfulness and a “glass half full” mindset seem to come naturally to some. Although I don’t see myself as a pessimist, my default response is not always positive. I first want to know how many ounces the glass holds and where exactly is the halfway point on said glass. I’ve had to learn gratitude from the example of others. My first and best teacher was my Dad.
The night before Thanksgiving 2015, Dad called with the surgeon’s diagnosis. He called family himself when there was bad news. I think he did this for two reasons, first to protect mom from having to do it. Secondly, he did it to assure us that he was okay and that he would continue to be okay, no matter the outcome.
Growing up with Larry Elkins was often an adventure in having fun doing absolutely nothing special – which made everything special. Dad could pull a prank or find a joke in random daily routines. He could expose the upside to a down time in no time.
Family vacations were spent visiting family. We drove from the northwest suburbs of Chicago to the very tip of southern Illinois. I got so excited as we entered the green, forested hills and the beauty of that part of the state. I looked so forward to playing with cousins, or sitting around Grandma’s kitchen table laughing with Dad and his siblings.
On one of those journeys, we had a flat tire. I remember my family standing beside the road while Dad changed the tire on our 1971 Pontiac — more the size of a cruise ship than a car. Once on the road again, we came upon a traffic jam caused by a very serious crash. Instead of complaining about our bad luck, Dad simply said, “You see, kids. If it weren’t for that flat tire, we could have been in that accident.” As a child, his view of our situation influenced my thinking about the inconveniences of life. Over the years I saw him expose nuggets of positivity in stressful situations.
At the age of 73, Dad showed no sign of slowing down. He coached softball spring and summer and walked the beach with mom every winter. At his routine physicals, his doctor rarely had much to say, as he had no serious health problems, so they talked about sports. When he began having abdominal pain, he attributed it to a pulled muscle from pitching batting practice for his softball team.
When the surgeon said his tumor was inoperable pancreatic cancer, we knew this would likely be the final test of his resilience. We knew the road ahead would be rough. But with Dad’s positivity and his bravery to try innovative treatments, he lived a joyful and reasonably comfortable 19 months with a disease that overcomes many in a fraction of that time. During those months he continued as an example, teaching me how to live, and how to die with gratitude.
During his last week, a few of us gathered around as his brother offered a prayer. I’m so thankful my uncle did that because, for the first time, I heard my Dad talk to God out loud. After my Uncle prayed, my Dad thanked God for what a great life he’d been given. He told God that no matter what happened next, he was ready, he was thankful, and it was okay.
Today, when I find myself with a choice between a path of negativity, or one of thankfulness, I think of Dad. Grumbling leads to a place my Dad would never be. Gratitude is the way he paved for me and leads to the life he would want for me — much like my Heavenly Father, God.
Who is your example of grace and gratitude during trials?
When not volunteering at Celebrate Recovery on Friday nights, Tammy can be found at home with husband, Ken, and their two rescue cats and two rescue dogs. To help pay veterinary bills, she works as a Radiographer for a local urgent care center. Tammy is also mom to three grown-up humans and “Grammy” to two perfect grandchildren.