Since the normal blog-posting night is Wednesday . . . so it’s sitting there waiting for your arrival on Thursday . . . and since this Thursday is Thanksgiving . . . as usual, the blog goes up a day early. Just in case you’re wondering why things are suddenly different (or maybe not, since constant change seems to be the norm these days).
Despite the fact that life has been . . . how shall we say . . . different? this year, in review I’m finding a great deal for which I’m thankful. I don’t believe it’s because there are suddenly so many more things deserving of my gratitude; I’m just more aware of how thankful I really should be.
For example, shortages of the basic necessities of life (such as toilet paper . . . and bacon . . .) will make you appreciate them even more when they’re actually available. Having rampant cases of a mysterious virus surging everywhere should bring, in its wake, gratitude when it doesn’t afflict those closest to you. I’m grateful the majority of our employees have managed to avoid the current plague and those who haven’t only had mild cases. I’m extremely grateful that, although my mother-in-law and my grandson both had COVID, their symptoms were not disabling and both recovered without hospitalization. The rest of our family has survived relatively unscathed thus far. And I’m especially thankful for that.
I’m grateful for the teachers that I know are struggling right now, trying to do their best for the children who are depending on them, while also trying to keep them safe and well. I’m thankful for those who work in our profession—especially those who work with us—and their desire to find a way to continue serving the families who are suffering, even though that service may look quite different from days gone by—or even from last year. I could list dozens of occupations whose members have risen above the fray during these chaotic times and to whom we owe a debt of gratitude, but there is one group that I especially admire—one group for whom I am truly grateful—and that’s the medical professionals and the support staff that work with them.
I cannot imagine the stress and the frustration and the fear they have to face each and every day. Their facilities are overwhelmed, with several closing their doors to patients needing the care they offer, because there are no beds available. Many of them are facing shortages of the equipment they need to protect themselves and to minister to their patients—not to mention shortages of personnel—but they still get up and they still go and they still do the very best they can, only now they are being called upon to do so much more. They serve as counselors for their patients, trying to allay their fears and ease their mental and emotional pain as well as their physical. They are communication specialists, arranging for what is often a virtual visit between the patient and their family when it appears that time is growing short. And they are surrogate family members, sitting with the dying, holding their hands as they slip away, knowing they can never take the place of their loved ones. But knowing they have to at least try. Forced to watch helplessly as those in their care deteriorate, they know they are doing everything they can . . . and it still isn’t enough.
Fortunately, for every story of loss there are dozens with happier endings. But that doesn’t make it all right. It doesn’t ease the mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion they are battling. It doesn’t take away the fear—or the resignation—that they will be next. No matter how many precautions they may take, far too many of their number have fallen victim to a villain they cannot see. Far too many of them have paid the ultimate price for their dedication to their profession and to the people depending upon them to literally save their lives. And each time one of their number falls, it serves as a stark reminder of what their own future may hold. But they don’t stay home, closeted away from the world. They can’t. Their professionalism . . . their devotion . . . their selflessness . . . will not allow it.
Gratitude should always translate into action, even if that action is just a heartfelt “thank you”. But we have the opportunity to do far more for those who are risking their lives for us. We can protect them while protecting ourselves. We can acknowledge their sacrifices and take steps to try and ensure greater ones are not required of them.
You’ve heard it said not all heroes wear capes and that’s never been truer than right now. Today’s heroes come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in every walk of life, doing good at their own peril, helping make the world a better, safer place. And whether we realize it or not, a good many of them are dressed in scrubs and wearing masks . . . not to hide their identities, but so they can continue trying to save the world. I, for one, will be forever grateful for their efforts.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.