Grief counselor Cheri Milton speaks the power of gratitude. In her presentation before Madison South Rotary, Milton discussed why she chose to write,Before You Go: Lessons for a better life from those facing death.
"I never imagined how much they would give back to me," she said of her interactions with terminal patients.
Milton spoke of a patient named "Joyce" who suffered from ALS. Even though this horrific disease systematically stole Joyce's ability to eat, speak, or move in any substantial way, she remained steadfast in her determination to be grateful for what she did have. "At least I can see my grand-kids when they come home from school. At least my hair still looks nice."
Milton said this kind of determination was inspirational beyond measure, and she began changing things in her own life because of it. "How grateful am I?" Milton pondered. "I try to be grateful for the things we take for granted," Milton said.
Another terminal patient named "Harold" still had unopened Christmas presents under his artificial tree four years after his wife died. He told Milton he hadn't gotten around to opening the gifts she had given him for her last Christmas. Whatever the actual reason, Milton says this patient inspired her to stop procrastinating when it came to certain goals. "What am I waiting for? she asked. As a result, Milton says she forgave a friend, took a foreign vacation and started singing again for the first time since college.
We don't need death at our door to make positive changes in our lives. The patients in Before You Go certainly teach us that much.