A Lesson in Finding Gratitude When Life Throws You a Curveball


Art by Maude Passini (@maudpassini)

One of my favorite places in the whole entire world was laying on top of my grandma’s stomach. The motion of her breathing and the comfort of her skin was a safe haven for me as a child. I would place my ear on her muumuu dress and catch each wave when her stomach would rise and fall. I would call her stomach my pillow—it was the comfiest thing I’ve ever laid my head on.

At 9:30 am, on another day entirely, I awoke from a different pillow to the sound of my fiancé coughing. It was a cough so deep that it reverberated throughout his chest cavity. Panicked, I leaned on the bed and touched his shoulder in the hopes he was okay. Today was the day we were supposed to visit my grandma and possibly say goodbye forever.

For as long as I can remember, my grandma was a pillar of strength. For eighty-four years, nothing ever got in her way. She was tough, had a beautiful sense of humor, and knew how to make a mean arroz con pollo. But when I found out that cancer had taken over a part of her body on my birthday in January 2018, I couldn’t help but hope that everything was going to be okay—unfortunately, life had other plans.

After listening to my fiancé cough for the fourth time in a row, I begged the Universe to make him well. I feared this was going to be the last time we were going to see her, and I didn’t want him to miss out on telling her goodbye. 

But life has a funny way of granting you a better wish; a wish you didn’t realize you wanted. With a slight whisper, it’ll shift you in a different direction and push you into a world that you never thought was possible. At the time, I didn’t realize what the Universe was trying to say something—but now, I understand what it was trying to do.

Life has a funny way of granting you a better wish; a wish you didn’t realize you wanted. With a slight whisper, it’ll shift you in a different direction and push you into a world that you never thought was possible.

When I think back on this day with my grandma, I can’t help but feel grateful. It was the best day I ever had with her, even though we barely talked to one another. While she still laughed at my jokes and playfully teased my aunt who was taking care of her, her energy was minimal, only speaking in small phrases when she wanted to engage. 

So the minute my aunt left the house to complete some chores, the room fell quiet. If a feather fell onto the ground, you most definitely could have heard it. At first, I tried to ask her questions and tell her stories about my friends, but her responses were meek like a mouse. So instead, I stopped altogether, turned on the TV, and held her hand.

Truth be told, my grandma and I didn’t always get along. She was boastful with her old-school beliefs, and I was never afraid to speak up against them. We didn’t agree on politics or how we should engage with toxic family behaviors, but if there was one thing we could agree upon, it was movies and television. 

When I turned on the TV, a woman with fiery red hair appeared. She was back in her old town in the middle of Christmas, not looking for love. A Lifetime Christmas marathon was happening in the middle of October, and we were instantly sucked in. For six hours, we held hands, gossiped about the characters, and ate junk food. If this wasn’t considered a Christmas miracle, then I don’t know what is. 

That year, I didn’t have the opportunity to spend Christmas with my grandma. She passed away shortly after we had this day together. But for those six hours, I felt like the Universe gave us our holiday, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Our relationship wasn’t always perfect, but this memory has solidified how special these moments can and should be, and reminded me not to rush through when I’m in the middle of them—because while you might not realize how precious they can be at the time, moments like these can be life-altering when you least expect them to be. 

Isn’t it funny how life works? Because of this one moment, I try to lean into the path that life presents for me now more than ever. I could resist and force things to occur, but if I would have fought tooth and nail for my fiancé to come or switched to any other channel on the TV, my most precious memory with my grandma would be completely different.

The truth is, I’m grateful my fiancé got sick. I’m grateful that my aunt went to the store, and I’m grateful that the Lifetime Channel played Christmas movies right before Halloween. And while I wasn’t able to place my head on top of her “pillow” so she could provide comfort for me, this quiet moment in her room became a safe haven for me in my mind—and, for that, I am forever grateful. 

BY Raven Ishak - November 8, 2019

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November 10, 2019 9:30 am

Hi Raven,
I have been researching the blogging world and trying to tell myself I can do it! I discovered your blog when looking for tips in a post by Smart Blogger. Your blog is touching, inspiring and informative. The ability you have to open up and share your feelings with your readers obviously continues to bring them back not only for the informative posts. So enjoyable!

November 27, 2019 5:42 am

Cool article!

November 27, 2019 11:05 am

Glad to see you’re using my illustration for this cool article, but could you correct the name? My name is Maud Passini, not Maude 🙂
Thank you! Would love to create more artwork for you in the future.

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