The past 24 hours have been quite the soul-searching journey for me.  As we roll into the holiday season, she feels so close yet so far away from me.  As I get out our Thanksgiving decorations, I come across turkey place cards that she helped me with.  Her little handwriting on the cards that tell Mommy and Daddy where to sit.  She never really was a big Thanksgiving kid.  But let’s be honest.. what child is?  They are all more excited about the family coming in and no school.  We all force them to “try” the turkey as they fill up on mashed potatoes and pie.  They play board games with their Grandparents (because I really hate to play board games), they get books read and rocked to sleep on top of a grandpa.  I love this holiday because it’s low-key.  It also means that tomorrow I’m officially permitted to listen to Christmas music without hearing Stuart bitch at me about disrespecting the turkey.

But the theme of this day is being thankful.  When you are a parent who has lost a child, you think that at times there is very little to be thankful for.  And maybe those things become clearer to you as more time passes.  Let me start by saying as an overall theme that there is nothing I want more in this world them to have her cuddled in bed with me.  Healthy.  But I know that if she were still here, that would not be the case.  She would be curled up on the couch, full of medicine and probably with a bucket close by.  It’s hard to say out loud that I’m ever thankful she is not with us.  But I shutter at what she would be like today if she were still here.

For the majority of her life, Stuart and I were always able to honestly say that she had so many amazing things in her life that outweighed the bad.  Once that scale started to tip, it became painful obvious to us that her time was ending.  And the scale tips quickly.   They go from occasional hospital stays or transfusions to you wanting them to be admitted so that they are comfortable.  One day you wake up and one side of the scale is on the ground like a seesaw with only one person on it.  That is what happened to us.

But through her passing, the clouds have parted and the sun has started to shine a bit. I’m able to see a little more clearly on what her passing and when she passed has provided for us.  So with that, I give you my Letterman top 10 list of what I’m thankful for through her leaving us.

1. Grant and Sophia.  This morning I woke to find them snuggling in Grant’s bed under the covers together.  “This used to be me and Isabella”, Grant tells us with a smile.  The bond that gets created by the brother and sister left behind is amazing.

2. Jackson.  My brother had a son a little over a month before Isabella died.  Every new baby should be the focus of family and I’m happy her sickness didn’t cloud his attention.

3. My Mom’s marriage to my Stepdad Bob.  This was on hold forever because of cancer.  I’m happy to report my Mom is now legally, Connie Stewart and I legally have a new stepdad.

4. Stuart finding himself.  He is no longer responsible for saving her.  He can now be a husband and father to the rest of us.  It has also removed the weight on his shoulders.  He can become who he is meant to be without the need of a ridiculous paycheck and maxed out insurance.

5. My nieces.  I am finally able to get to know them and actually spend time with them. They have developed into preteens who never got the attention they deserved from most of us.  They are developing these amazing talents and personalities that are so different from anyone under my roof.  It’s been a learning experience to me on connecting with them when I don’t have much in common with them.  I’m getting better but hoping to improve every day.

6. My dad.  My dad has had a rough year.  I’m not sure I could have given him the support he needed and deserved with her still here.  We are still developing our relationship but it has taken us 35 years to say “I love you” when we hang up the phone.  That phrase is here to stay and I love it.

7. Visitors.  All family visitors can now come to my house and enjoy themselves and not feel like they need to pick up the slack with my laundry, or my unorganized Tupperware and pantry.  They can come with a book and read by the fire, they can have a glass of wine and not feel like they are talking us off ledges.

8. My friends.  I’m extremely thankful to all of my friends who are still my friends.  I am mostly thankful to the ones who still find my friendship extremely valuable to their lives even without Isabella in it.  So many friendships in my life were held together because of Isabella’s sickness.  The ones that have held without her glue are like gold to me.  The ones who only want me in their lives with a sick child are not real friends.  This has become very clear to me as time passes.

9. ISF.  I’m so thankful for everything around this.  Mainly to the people who devote their time and energy to this cause and expect nothing in return.  All the countless people who do things in her memory every day and support us at the race, blood drives, fundraising events etc..  We are really doing something amazing with ISF and it is one of the things I am most proud of in my life.

10. Last but not least… Me.  That’s right.. I’m thankful for me.  I’m thankful that my ship did not sink.  I’m thankful that I find things in my life that are worth getting out of bed for.  I’m thankful that I have stopped feeling sorry for myself and that I look at Isabella as a blessing and no longer a curse on my life.  I have found myself a bit and I’m proud that I have not allowed a death to pull out the worst parts of myself.  Taking care of myself is critical in my survival of this situation and I have made myself a priority.  I’m healthy, happy and thankful for what I still have in this life.

I could probably list 100 things I’m thankful for.. but these are the ones fresh on my mind.  I’m not happy about celebrating another Thanksgiving without her… and never will be.  But I can be thankful for a lot..  It takes time to discover it and I’m finding out more and more each day.  Thankful.. a word that I thought would be out of my life forever – but here I am saying it with a smile.

Gobble.