Here’s another in our “year of firsts” this weekend: our first Thanksgiving without Tory. It also usually lines up with our wedding anniversary – we got married on Thanksgiving weekend 15 years ago – but this year our anniversary falls almost a week after.
And if you wondered why the heck Kate and I would celebrate Thanksgiving after the year we’ve had, you wouldn’t be crazy – what is there to be thankful for when you lose your mom and wife?
Well, it turns out, a lot.
There’s a reason I think why fall is many people’s favourite season. In some ways it’s a time of nostalgia after the summer and a necessary break before the holidays and then the darkness of winter. For me it’s almost the anti-New Year’s – a time when you don’t look forward at the year ahead; instead you pause and reflect on the times behind you.
If I were to count my blessings this year I’d trail off to sleep before I finished. I’d need many more fingers and toes. I’d need an abacus (I’d also need instructions on how to use an abacus). The point is there are too many to count.
So let me instead focus on the things that have had the biggest impact this year, and why I’m most thankful:
- Love: I can tell you with absolute confidence that without having #teamtory behind me (and in many cases in front and at my side), this year would be way darker than it has been. In fact most days I see no darkness, only light. I’m constantly amazed at how well Kate and I are doing but I shouldn’t be – we have the positive energy of every one of you powering us. If you’re reading this, you’re part of that energy.
- The kindness of strangers: It’s easy to focus, especially now, on the negativity in the world. Even the jerk that cut me off on the way to Costco. People seem so centred on themselves. Give me a call the next time you think society’s going to hell, though. I’ll tell you about the university student who stopped me outside after seeing my presentation about The Tory Day Fund to donate with the cash in her pocket. Or the woman who wrote out the last cheque in her purse for the fund. Or the volunteer who brought Tory her soup at every chemo appointment. All complete strangers, and all memories I’ll hold for a lifetime.
- My DNA: I never forget that I’m one of the most privileged people on the planet, and the only thing that I did to earn most of that privilege is being born a white male in Canada. I did nothing other than win a genetic lottery. That alone has given me opportunities that elude 90% of people on earth. Yes, I got an education, worked hard, saved – but the vast majority of the planet never gets a chance to do even that. So even though I’ve lost this year, there are literally billions who would trade places with me in a heartbeat.
- Life insurance: This might seem an odd pick and maybe a bit too personal but let me explain my love/hate relationship. The hate part is easy: you only collect it when the person you love dies. It’s a premium you pay and never, ever want the payout. When you receive it, you might be racked with guilt like I was. But then you find the love in it. The fact that it provides a cushion to ease short-term burdens. And most importantly, it provides an opportunity to ensure your loved one’s legacy can live on. That’s what Tory’s insurance did. When I committed to matching all donations to The Tory Day Fund it wasn’t with my money (Mom, you can relax now). It was with the gift Tory left. So in a way we’re playing with the house’s money. And when that happens, we all win.
- The past and present: The old saying “I wish I knew then what I know now” has never been more true. I used to think about it when reflecting on high school and my early twenties when life and love didn’t go my way. My mom would always remind me not to sweat the small stuff, but the stuff never seemed small at the time. Well, friends, it was and it still is. We spend an incredible amount of our lives worrying about things that we should really give zero fucks about. Do yourself and the people around you a favour and worry less. You’ll have more time to enjoy the present.
- The future: I also learned this year to never wish time away. I used to think daily about the life Tory and I would live later in life, plan it to the smallest detail, and count down the days until we could make it happen. A lot of good that did me, eh? So instead of making that mistake again, I live the cliché of taking things day by day. I literally have no plans after October 14 except a Christmas party, a trip over the holidays with family, and a theatre night in March. It’s perfect.
Kate and I got an early start at Thanksgiving with the Butlers on Wednesday, and will get together with my family (and the dogs, cats, chicken, ducks, geese…) on Sunday. However you celebrate it (and whenever you do it – whether it be this weekend or in the US in November), please promise me you’ll stop, be thankful for everything T gave you, Kate and me, and then be thankful for whatever life has given you this year. You may need to dig a little deeper to find it, but trust me, it’s there and it’s beautiful.
P.S. I’m also thankful for the hundreds of people who have donated to The Tory Day Fund or bought tickets to our fundraising event, The Night of Nonsense. The campaign ends that night and it’s just a week away. If you can, please consider donating or buying your ticket today.