Here in the summer of 1948 my 18 year old Aunt Cary holds me in the hammock at my grandparents’ farm in the country. It is a simple moment, no celebration going on, no one’s birthday or anniversary, no party clothes, no fireworks or lavish food spread. It is, in fact, the kind of moment that makes up most of our lives.
In her book “Radical Gratitude,” Mary Jo Leddy doesn’t suggest that we need to be content about every aspect of our lives. We can want to live in a safe neighborhood, with adequate food and shelter. We can want to feel better when we are ill. We can find fault with the people around us and with ourselves. But her main point is that we are missing the moment by moment chances to be grateful. For life. For family. For friends. For the sunshine. For the earth under our feet. Being alive is, after all, a rare gift, one often overlooked in our quest for more, better and different.
In a summer seventy years later, I am grateful for my aunt taking the time to just sit on the hammock with me. I have missed her every year since she took her life in 1969. She lost her struggle with a later onset mental illness. But for that afternoon we shared the joy of each others’ company. And I am glad we did.