• Gabby Eckert

The Practice of Thankfulness

Updated: Dec 5, 2018

"Gabby, keep looking up and count your blessings. We have so much to be thankful for!" These are the wise words shared with me by Drew’s dear granny, Lillian. Little did Granny know that I needed to hear those words, not only for that day, but also for the upcoming weeks.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love how on Thanksgiving everyone slows down, comes together for a delicious meal, and shares what they are thankful for. This year Thanksgiving was different for my family. Thanksgiving met us during a very difficult time in our family. I don't think any of us were ready for this holiday that was meant to be celebrated by being thankful.

Thanksgiving Dinner with family and friends

My Nonna. My Italian Grandmother was the first pasta chef at a well known restaurant in Atlantic City, NJ and cooked for Frank Sinatra and Dolly Parton

This Thanksgiving we were grieving because we lost a cherished family member. My Nonna (the name for "grandmother" in Italian) passed away from cancer after a long and painful battle. She was a real firecracker and the true definition of a mother who put her children first. She came to America not knowing a lick of English, but had a passion for cooking that opened up doors for her. She became the first pasta chef at a well-known restaurant in Atlantic City, NJ. She had the privilege of meeting and cooking pasta for big celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Dolly Parton. Her death seemed to happen so quickly, and I don’t think anyone expected it to happen the way that it did. Our hearts were shattered. We struggled with feelings of sadness, shock, and exhaustion. I was angry on a day when we were supposed to be thankful; all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and cry. Yet, I kept on with the day and helped to prepare the traditional Thanksgiving feast. However, as I worked in the kitchen, I could not stop thinking of the events that took place only a few short days ago. I thought of all the pain, suffering, and the loss of my Nonna Marie.

I thought that when more people would arrive for the Thanksgiving dinner that I would begin to feel more thankful. Sadly, as family members and friends filed into my home, the feelings of gratitude were missing. I put a smile on my face and tried to hang on to any glimpse of happiness or warmth I could that day. I wanted to hold each loved one tightly and never let them go. I wanted to memorize every feature and gesture of these special people so I would always remember them. The food was delicious, as always. After all, my family is Italian, and they show their love by feeding you. The day came and went and still I was not feeling grateful; in fact, I was plain old miserable. The day was beautiful, but I felt like I was missing something. The next day was Black Friday, but instead of planning our shopping trip or decorating our Christmas tree, we would be dressed in black and attend my Nonna's funeral. I thought maybe the lack of feeling thankful was because I was dreading what the next day would bring. I never met someone who liked funerals, but I have to say I absolutely HATE them, so I assumed that had to be the reason for my feelings.

Black Friday arrived and my Nonna's funeral was beautiful and meaningful. After the funeral, we all gathered back home exhausted. We sat around the fireplace, and we sipped something warm. We were quiet and just trying to soak in the events of the day. My husband then suggested that we should all go around and share the blessings we had experienced in the last few days. At first, I was a little hesitant and skeptical. I let a few others share before I did, and as I listened to their blessings, my heart began to melt.

"I was blessed to get to see our grandma one last time," one said.

"I am so thankful for our family and friends that really stepped in and were there for us," said another.

"I am grateful for all the lessons we learned from Nonna and this experience, especially for the reminder that life is too short and we should live life to the fullest with those we love" another shared.

As we continued to go around the room and share the blessings we had, I felt the anger, the sorrow, and the pain begin to lift. This exercise was the medicine my soul desperately needed. I realized that despite all the pain, I truly had so much to be thankful for. I was reminded of all our many blessings. I realized that sometimes difficult situations can shine a light on all we have to be thankful for, if we choose to look for it.

Although I did not have the spirit of Thanksgiving on Thursday, I found the true meaning of Thanksgiving on Black Friday. The day I dressed in black from head to toe, went to my Nonna’s funeral, and then was smacked in the face with the reality that I really did have so much to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is not just a day once a year we set aside to be grateful, but Thanksgiving is actually a state of being. It is the practice of being thankful, and it is something that should be done every day. The exercise my husband suggested showed me how powerful it is to stop everything and recount all our blessings. I learned that the feeling of gratitude is not always a feeling that just appears out of nowhere but that it's something you have to pursue.

I now see the importance of setting aside time to look for the small and big blessings in our lives. This practice has been transforming my life! I have begun to write down what I am thankful for regularly and make a conscious effort to give thanks for the big and small blessings in life. Sometimes we forget those important, small blessings as we go about our busy days. On my list, you can find big blessings like my marriage to Drew and little blessings like warm coffee by the fire.

As the New Year approaches, I want to start living this life more alert, with my eyes wide open in gratitude. I want to adopt the practice of being thankful, not just during Thanksgiving, but every day, because I want to enjoy all the benefits and transforming power the practice of Thankfulness brings.

I want to encourage all of you to join me in this journey.

Download my FREE "Practice of Thankfulness" template here.

I challenge you to begin listing all that you have to be thankful for. To help you get started on your journey of thankfulness, sign up here to get your FREE Thankfulness template.

Start living life more alert, with eyes wide open in gratitude. Adopt the practice of being thankful, not just during Thanksgiving, but every day, and experience the benefits and transforming power the practice of Thankfulness brings.