“Start each day with a grateful heart” is printed on a wooden sign that a friend gave me. I have that inspirational message hanging on the wall opposite my bed. It reminds me first thing in the morning to be grateful. Such a simple but sometimes very difficult instruction to do. My mind quickly fills with the duties of the day, and at times, it is reluctant to leave the warmth of my cozy bed. However, if I can divert my attention from the activity and instead tap into an inner gratitude for the mere fact of being alive, then each breath becomes a sacred gift. Earlier this year, I had close contact with death and I can say firsthand that I no longer take the blessing of being alive for granted.
Perhaps the universe needed to bring me back to an attitude of gratitude. It was 7:15 pm on September 23 when death touched me. I was crossing the street with friends in a crosswalk next to the beach after my friend Shaun’s birthday celebration. I was the last of the group when suddenly I heard a scream from across the street. “Liah! Watch out!” Then all of a sudden, like instinctively, my friend Patricia, who was walking in front of me, grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the way of a speeding red car. I was wearing a black dress that dark night and the driver didn’t see me at all. The car hit the back of my dress and left an indelible memory in my mind of the bright red hood that nearly stole my life.
The driver jerked and pulled to the side of the road, apparently he heard my friends yelling as they yelled as he passed. I was hyperventilating and my body was shaking from the intensity of the situation. I couldn’t speak or process. He was overwhelmed with shock and fear. He couldn’t believe the magnitude of what had just happened. If my friend Shaun hadn’t called me and Patricia hadn’t grabbed me, that car would have hit me and I would have been shot through space and my body would have been on the way to the hospital or died from the impact.
I share this because all too often we forget that the little things that bother us can take away our serenity and make us feel empty, frustrated, and pointless instead of grateful, alive, and determined. If that had been my last day of life, would I have felt complete and at peace with everyone and everything in my life? I asked, did I leave things undone, unfinished, or unmanifested? Did I settle for less than what I should be, do, or have? Was I kind and compassionate to others or was I self-centered and ego-driven?
I feel like I have been given another chance at life. I have the opportunity to rewrite who I am and what I am here for. I have the freedom to love deeply, care positively, and make a difference in the lives of everyone I meet. Since we never know when the angel of death will come looking for us, we must live as if we only had today. No more wasting precious time on resentment, fear, self-pity, and judgment. Instead, I chose to live in gratitude, peace and harmony, these are my goals. I’m here to let the ones I love know that I love them and to show me what life brings, even if it’s not exactly what I ordered.
Perhaps I would add to my wall poster, start and end each day with a grateful heart.