The sun was shining bright through the weeping willow tree near the driveway. The range of warm hues glistened as the sunlight hit the grass. A warm breeze touched my cheek and my hair blew in the wind. I felt energy move up and down my spine.
I thought, “Here I am. I’m alive!” A warm sensation filled my heart, and deep gratitude stirred in my being. “I am here.” The world felt big and bright and wide open to me.
I was 14 years old, and I had an acute sense of feeling alive. The world seemed to take on a magical quality. It was as if everything around me sparkled. My heart felt full of thankfulness, and a feeling and knowing of “I am here” constantly swirled in and around me. “How lucky am I?” I frequently thought.
On a deeper level, not quite in the front of my consciousness, I understood that I had not died, though cancer had threatened my life just a few years before.
In the morning after breakfast, I’d stand in front of the mirror and comb my hair. I knew what it felt like to have no hair because I’d lost all of mine during chemotherapy treatments. Now my hair was thick and curly, and I was so grateful. What a treat to not wear a wig but to be able to comb my own hair!
After school, I’d come home, sit on the floor, and hold my cat, Chaz. Her warm body rubbed up against me, and her purring filled my being. Her eyes stared into mine. My body vibrated with love.
In the evening, I’d jump into bed and open one of my many spiritual and philosophical books. I found in these authors companions who, like me, were contemplating the meaning of life, and I knew that I was not alone in the sense of aliveness and wonder I was feeling. These books spoke to my soul, and I found refuge in their pages.
Existentialism and Human Emotions, by Jean Paul Sartre, was one of my favorites. “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself,” Sartre wrote. I contemplated this statement for weeks on end. This book was one of my first exposures of the power of our mind and the idea that we can create our reality with it. For me, freedom and choice, which Sartre talked about, meant feeling gratitude for life within and around me. Now that I knew I wasn’t going to die, it was up to me to choose how to live. I decided I was going to live fully.
Each night I’d fall asleep with prayers of gratitude on my lips.
I told no one of all these feelings or experiences. I just held them closely and thanked God daily.
Today, forty years later, I continue to understand that life is precious, that it is not to be taken for granted. It is a gift.
Acclimated to the everydayness of life, I do not always hold this sacred knowing within me front and center. I get caught up in the rat race of life, like everyone else. But when I stop and review my day, and reflect on what is important, this sense of life’s preciousness resurfaces. It is always there. And I find myself asking God to forgive me for getting consumed in the mundane, the busyness of life, and the worrying mind.
With a thankful heart, I ask God for wisdom, guidance, and comfort. As a young child, I had discovered God’s presence, and my soul still longs for it. When I am attuned to this presence, I know that I’m fully alive.