Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Rushing: During tough times, some thoughts on gratitude

Now that I have been sworn into office as District 3 Supervisor, the culmination of a long and difficult campaign, some might think that I would be most grateful today for the outcome of all this. And I am thankful for this opportunity. Yet, gratitude means even more these days.


First, I am mindful of the many good people who worked so hard to elect me and that other good people, who worked hard for the other side, are wary and perhaps disappointed. My gratitude is for all the hope and effort and energy that went into this community ... from both sides. 

For my part, I ran to serve our community, so I am thankful that the majority of my fellow citizens have seen fit to grant me that opportunity. No doubt I will need to work hard to earn it. (And I will work hard!) For whatever reason, I feel called to do this right now, and to know that I am working on something noble, and much bigger than myself, and to be engaged in a process of transformation and courage and humility and of community ... well, that is something, isn't it? Humbling and hopeful. For this, I am grateful.


Today, though, gratitude enters with an even greater poignancy and depth for me. This past week, news came with a clarity and force that shook my reality: my partner and soulmate of 14 years was diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer. Suddenly, our world has changed. Whatever our personal plans were, they have evaporated and life is now grounded in the day-to-day.


I am mindful that each day, each hour, that passes is a gift. I am filled with gratitude for the time we have been given, for a special love, and for a life-giving friendship. I hold a deep admiration for Renee’s courage and acceptance and trust, even as she faces the great abyss of her own death. That she has been part of my life can only be described as a grand miracle, one to which I still pause in amazement.

Many of us watch those we love face their own brave journey with this horrible disease and we all watch it play out, powerless in the face of its progress, taking our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, our children and friends.

So let me tell my truth about all of this: I do not want to see my loved one die of cancer before her time. I just don’t. But this is the reality of it. And as we work so hard to stop death, or slow its march, all we accomplish is perhaps eking out a bit more life along the way to the inevitable. So I hope to celebrate what we’ve been given in the present moment and accept life on the terms it has been given, grateful for every bit. It's all good.

It strikes me that these illnesses that we biopsy and irradiate and remove (and often to which we eventually succumb) are but a symptom of a greater problem. We have taken for granted the most basic of gifts: clean water, wholesome food, and a land-base that accepts and transforms the waste we create. We forget that these are gifts and we use them like they will always be given to us regardless of how we behave. This path we are on leads to ruin: and I wonder if the heart of our problem isn’t simply a lack of gratitude.


So today, join me in giving thanks for the miracle of our own lives, for the life all around us and the precious gifts that allow us to be. For friendship and love and for all those who bear the painful burden of our excess, and for the simple gifts that mean so much and were given to so many of us for free: health and sunshine and love among them, and (of course) life which is so very very fragile.

Perhaps our love and gratitude will help us create a new way forward.

Denise Rushing lives with her family in Upper Lake.



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