“I wish Daddy was here. Making cookies in the easy bake oven would be way more fun with me, you, and Daddy,” Ellie said.
“I couldn’t agree more, El-bug,” I replied. Then I wrapped my arms around her and said, “It’s OK to miss Daddy.”
We had this conversation on Christmas day and it still amazes me how at her age she feels such a void from her Daddy’s absence on holidays. I could tell she was especially needy of me on this day because she wanted me to play with each one of her toys with her and wouldn’t let me out of her sight. My way of coping was to stay busy, organizing her toys and “being productive.” This created a lot of tension between the two of us as it took my focus away from her and we both ended up pretty frustrated at not being able to do what we each wanted to do.
At one point, I stopped and thought, Bailey, don’t miss it. Don’t miss out on these special moments because you’re sad and miss Andrew. Live. Be present. Enjoy Ellie. That one moment really transformed my thoughts, then my feelings, and went on to shape my overall attitude about the day. I allowed myself to feel sad and chose to stop distracting myself from the pain. Instead, I refocused my attention and energy on being present and enjoying spending time with my daughter on Christmas day.
To me, it boiled down to gratitude. Choosing to focus on what I did have versus what I did not. Andrew was gone, but Ellie was here. Gratitude gives us a different perspective on our pain and allows us to see pain’s gifts, which can provide meaning and hope for a brighter tomorrow. It’s been a long and bumpy road to get to this place where I genuinely feel grateful for both the “good” and the “bad” experiences in life (mind you, some days I still find it takes a little longer to shift into gratitude mode).
I might even go as far as to say gratitude is the most important gift I’ve taken away from the way Andrew lived his life until the very end. Daily, he displayed what it looks like to be consistently grateful, knowing any day could be his last. It reminds me of his quote in The Ellie Project:
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Faith gives you the strength to jump into challenge. Love, Daddy.
Andrew was the ultimate example of choosing faith and gratitude in the midst of challenge.
One of my favorite gifts on Christmas was from my parents. It’s a jar that says, Gratitude Changes Everything. You’re supposed to write three things daily you’re grateful for and put them in the jar. Ellie and I did this together on Christmas day. Here are three things Ellie was grateful for on this particular day…
- All my toys from Santa
- Santa and his elves
- That Santa shares his toys
She also thought it would be fun to guess which three things I was grateful for and here is what she came up with for me (which I kept, because indeed they are the ones I would have chosen for myself)…
- Jesus and God
Every year on New Year’s Eve I love thinking back on the year and writing down what I’m grateful for. I find it’s a great way to acknowledge and celebrate the past year and it puts me in a positive place to start the New Year. I would love to hear some of the things you are grateful for in 2015. Please share in the comments so I can celebrate with you! Thank you so much for taking time to hang out with me today. It’s always a pleasure to share my heart with you! Hope you have a happy New Year! Blessings.
PS – Looking to make 2016 the best year yet? If you want Ellie and me to come speak and sign some Ellie Project books, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. My speech is powerful, inspirational, and about living your legacy today! It’s good for men and women, corporate groups, mom’s groups, Bible Study groups, community groups, etc. Big or small, group size is of no importance. We are excited to come share this powerful message with you!
PPS – Share the gift of building lifetime character lessons for each letter of the alphabet with a special child in your life! To get your copy of The Ellie Project or The Ellie Project Stationery Set, click here!