Icons of gratitude in our lives

In my busy life I can so easily lose touch with its greatest gifts, can be so wrapped up in my petty concerns and anxieties that I fail to appreciate all my blessings.

In many ways I think this is what distinguishes what those of us in the Catholic faith tradition would call “holy people”. The holiest or most saintly people I know have an overflowing gratitude for the gifts of life. It’s almost like they see a whole other dimension of human existence that the rest of us cannot see.

A number of years ago I supported a good friend, Dean Braun, as he underwent years of the most torturous treatment for cancer. With bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy, his body and spirit were stripped bare. He shared with me his feelings of deep anger, loneliness and desperation. At the worst times, he was truly a shattered human being. Amazingly he survived the treatment, and had three years of remission where he was able to return to a normal way of life. However, there was nothing normal about him during those three years! He was filled with the most astounding gratitude for the gift of life, for the relationships he had and the creation around him.

Living in a rural setting, Dean was captivated by the sunsets, trees and animals. He shared with me that he felt as though he was in a constant state of prayer and communion with God, where the joy in his heart was overwhelming.

Unfortunately the cancer returned and Dean passed away. His suffering transformed him into an icon of gratitude, and a beacon for me in my life. If only I could have even a small amount of his way of seeing the world.

If like me, you are concerned about the lack of gratitude you have in your life, perhaps a place to start is with those icons of gratitude that God has given you. Who are they, and how do they inspire you to live differently?