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Great to be “GRATEFUL”

grate·ful  [greyt-fuhl]

  1. warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful: I am grateful to you for your help.
  2. expressing or actuated by gratitude: a grateful letter.
  3. pleasing to the mind or senses; agreeable or welcome; refreshing: a grateful breeze.
My emotions have been extraordinarily unpredictable this past month. Without sounding like a martyr for illness, allow me to initially share with some and once again reiterate to others that I was hospitalized most of the month of August 2011.
While I have mastered the art of “persona facade,” it has been a struggle of often monumental proportions. It is incredibly easy to have others think you have it all under control and that what you’re going through is “much ado about nothing,”  (hint: I specialize in the latter). In hindsight and spiritual retrospect, I can attest that each and every experience we endure while privileged enough to be on this earth is:
  1. All part of God’s plan.
  2. A matter of miles towards a longer journey.
  3. A precious piece to what often appears like a painful puzzle.
Even when it appears that misery is winning by an overwhelming margin, It all works to together for good in the end (see Romans 8:28).
Through the years, I’ve learned to question less and search more for the lesson. We endure challenges and hardships for a reason and if your faith is rooted and strong, you know that it is only for a season and to ultimately perfect you for a greater assignment that God has prepared for you.

Sometimes, we have to unceremoniously promote ourselves to the often disregarded career title of “Archeologist.” If you’re not privy to what they do, archeologists devote their lives to digging deep and excavating the earth until treasures, and fossils, and “stuff” is found.
Be not deceived, treasure isn’t always measured or valued as gold or coins or the wonders of King Tut’s tomb. A good lesson discovered after an introspective self-excavation is invaluable, and as for me, I am currently knee deep and pleased to announce that I have identified a priceless artifact called, “GRATEFUL.”
Was an excavation really necessary? Shouldn’t we always remain in a place thankfulness, gratefulness, and gratitude? Yes, we should, but as human beings, we often overlook life’s obvious treasures and unfortunately miss our blessings because we are conditioned to desire, expect, and feel poised to brag to others about our miraculous and tangible “Look what I found” discovery.
I was reminded last month that I have so much to be grateful for. Millions of people are admitted into hospitals every day, but not everyone has the blessed fortune to leave alive. Indeed I was diagnosed with cancer at one juncture, but do you know how many people die before they are fortunate enough to be given a diagnosis? I am grateful for my cancer diagnosis. Do you know how many cancers are discovered that don’t respond to treatment? I had to have a portion of my left kidney removed years ago, but I am grateful I was a viable candidate for a nephrectomy (surgery). I am also grateful to be in full remission.
Sounds twisted, but I must be destined to really do something great on this earth because I am constantly confronted with adversity that is definitely trying to impede my progress and efforts. I shall not be defeated, I am more than a conqueror.
Being ill is a “sho nuf” challenge that can leave you weeping in despair and feeling hopeless, or a different perspective is that it can muster your knowledge of God’s word and promises that “This sickness is not unto death…” and “by his stripes you are healed.” It’s a faith issue at the end of the day and you either choose to believe or you are defeated because you allow yourself to be deceived.
“Faith come by hearing and hearing the word of God” and I know that God cannot lie. Healing and victory is mine, but I am not so sanctified that I am not afraid to admit that I was scared, nervous, anxious, impatient, and drank more than a few glasses of wine at night to help shake the emotional quake. I am an imperfect child of God, but a believer nonetheless (The truth shall set you free). 
Needless to say, you look your worse in  any hospital bed after surgery, and the longer you’re in-patient, the worse you look. I complained relentlessly about how awful my toe and finger nails appeared. My skin was chaffed, and my lips seemed perpetually peeled. How grateful I am that God thought enough of me to allow me to endure all of those days looking like a pure “rag-a- muffin” when so many others were sent to morgues with tags on their toes? I am very grateful. I lived to share my story and hope it inspires someone who may have to endure the same. If you do, please tell your friends to keep your lips covered with “Car-Mex.”
Most important, I learned that I have an abundance of family and friends that love me, care for me, pray for me, call me, reach out to me, visited me, and just simply wished me well. You better believe there were days when I thought, “I can’t believe I haven’t heard from so and so.” But you know what? I received visits from five people who I’d never even met in my life.
They were Facebook friends. Genuine souls and individuals who just cared enough to take time out of their schedules to visit and pray with me and just be bedside with chit-chat. That is something I am grateful for because while I want the world to believe I am a pillar of strength and woman of victorious valor at all times, I struggle with being lonely as much as the next person. On many days those visits and faces served as points of light. Grateful am I.
Most important, ALL of those visitors shared their own testimonies and for that pseudo faction of the population who openly embrace a philosophy that they don’t want folks in their business, I am grateful to the ones who opened their personal-doors and let me in including the nurse who had years-ago endured the same surgery and showed me her scar and the ER doctor who had survived four abdominal surgeries and just took time to “talk to me” about the road to recovery. By the way, this procedure was my 7th major surgery. Who is more tired of this than me? No one. I have learned and grown and gathered a bevy of strength along the way. Grateful just may become my new favorite word. You can’t see it, touch it, smell it, or eat it. It’s an adjective. You EXUDE gratefulness. It is a spirit; an attitude.
Please do not misunderstand the aforementioned to mean that the presence of some visitors devalued the absence of others. If a friend or family member didn’t make it to see me during this  hospitalization, they were there for others and/or expressed their care and concern through other means.I am grateful for ALL that has and was extended. You didn’t need to be there to let me know you cared.
The real point is not about the visits and the who did what, when, or how much.  What is relevant is the overwhelming sense of “gratefulness” that emerged when I was finally discharged.
On more occasions than I care to share, my surgeon and I were at each other’s throats, but how incredibly grateful I am that his clinical skill, talent, and precision prevailed and my surgery was a success. Many have often wondered exactly what kind of surgery I had.
Sorry folks, it wasn’t Bariatric surgery as some curious minds eluded and hastily concluded (people can be mean, but I am grateful that I am mature enough to recognize that). Besides, if had the money to have ANY kind of plastic surgery or body enhancement, it would be “D-Cups” for the breasts. I’d have my two brown-mounds highly lifted, and silicone-lovely-luscious, but this procedure was medically necessary, so I’ll continue to remain happy with the breasts God gave me.
For the record, the official, medical terminology for my surgery was:  Exploratory Laparotomy with Lysis of Adhesions and bowel resection X 2.” (Google it). I did indeed have post-operative complications that were often difficult to precisely identify via CT scans due to the absence of a fever and my white blood count remained stable, but how grateful I am that an internal abcess was eventually identified, drained, and resolved.
It called for another admission (on my birthday of course) which lasted seven days and another special procedure, but  I was blessed, covered, protected, and just simply huddled in the hands of the Lord on every turn. By the way, my stomach now looks 15 times better than the photo above taken three days after the initial surgery. The swelling is gone, as are the 32 staples. There’s a very meager chance that I may “bring sexy back,” but let’s just stick to being grateful for operative success for now. I think henceforth, sexiness may be in the eye of the beholder.
Absolutely I laughed on many days, but you can’t even imagine the days I cried like a bag of water. I am so very, very, grateful for my Delta Mu Sorors and Sands Danna and Monique for your words of encouragement and Danna, your phone calls meant and always will mean the world to me. We have a special number 1 and number 2 bond that can only be understood by us Texas-two. It’s a private rollercoaster we endure and for you, and to you, I am grateful. (However, you scared me death when you went crying like you were at an Italian wedding that one day. I now understand your tears, and I am grateful that you love me enough to smear your mascara on my behalf. Save the product next time girl. Good mascara is costly.)
Also big-ups to the Sistah-Circle who Kelsey kept abreast. And yes, Dean Stacey Branch, I am your Soror-Daughter 🙂
I am grateful to my Bethel Baptist Deacon for visiting and praying with me and my entire church family for that matter. I am also grateful for my Soror and most important my FRIEND Tracy Douglas for making it a point while in town from Miami to find her way to Tower 7 to see me with her daughter and mother in tow. It wasn’t at all part of her day’s plan, but she made it happen. How generous. I am grateful. Let me not forget Monica Knighton, prayer warrior extraordinaire, and my good girlfriend Monet Pearson for bringing me that bag of Werthers and for just being a friend beyond friends. How kind of you to take me to your mother’s salon to get my “fab new hair color.” I love it!
Thank you Kezia Rolle who never has spare time, but made time. Thank you to my condo neighbor Kathy Lilly for holding it up, down, and in all ways around. If I haven’t said it enough Kat…I appreciate me some you.
To my “dear friend” Jonathan for his long distance calls and encouragement and
a high-five to my sister Natalie for flying from Maryland for a week and just being there because she loves me and to my oldest sister Linda for meeting us in the parking lot at 5:30 a.m. to kiss me and say she loved me prior to my procedure. She also stayed in the fold the remainder of the week. I dunno, there’s a really special human being who sent me two dozen roses on my birthday, one white and one pink bouquet. They were beautiful and just one of many gestures he exhibited over several weeks. Perhaps he wants his privacy maintained, so allow me to simply say, “How grateful and thankful I am to have a friend as wonderful as you.”
And Momma. You personify gratefulness, and I love you. Tain’t nuthin’ like a southern Momma, mine is the BEST. She has the gift of hospitality that is something to marvel. You can’t ruin your welcome, but she will dote on you and feed the masses southern cuisine that puts you to sleep right before the last bite. Just know when it’s time to grab your purse and “get gone” til the next invite.
This may all sound gratuitous and nick-picky and even borderline exploitative, but there were people like Marsha Oliver who I barely know who sent me emails via her I-phone and each one made all the difference in the world.
Angela Robinson  always had a “word in due season” and a grab bag of goodness because she has seen me through some times…some times. My friend Greg McKinnon whose Aunt and my FCCJ mentor Elizabeth Cobb lost her life at Mayo Clinic while I was inpatient and I wasn’t able to attend her services or say goodbye, but she was also my Soror and one of the first women on planet earth that made me say, “When I grow up, I want to be that fierce.” I was 19 and she groomed me in so many ways that were indirect and distant. I love you Dean Cobb. Rest in Peace.
While Greg couldn’t make it to Baptist to see me, he expressed his concern and love and care via calls and phone.
And a mad, crazy, thank you to ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLL  all of my  Facebook family for the multitude of  birthday shout outs and inbox messages and yes, even the “Pokes.”
Thank you Sherila Perez, B.J. Barrow, Dove Hogan, the legions of nurses at Baptist and their overwhelming patience, dedication, and expertise. It wasn’t always a perfect experience, but I am grateful for my lessons in imperfection, because no one is perfect and medicine is NOT an exact science. Those who indulge in the profession are agents of compassion and pursue patient care as a calling. Let’s all say it at once: I am so “GRATEFUL.”
The problem with such public expressions of gratefulness is that inevitably, I have left someone out and I humbly apologize. If I did so, it is because I am happily overwhelmed  with  the sincere reminder that healing extends far beyond the capability of medicine and clinical practice. I could not have made it through the tough times and rough nights and staples and sutures and difficultly without my world of friends who showed me an unheralded amount of love that prompted me to say to myself, the next time I even THINK I want to complain about what didn’t happen, what I didn’t receive, who didn’t do what I expected, or how I think something should have occurred that didn’t, I anoint myself an “archeologist and dig deep.” Self-excavation is healthy preservation.
At the layer of life that matters most is an invaluable treasure that can and will take you farther in life than you will ever expect to travel and it is affectionately known as a spirit of gratefulness.
Ahhhhh yes: Kedra Curry and Marc Little; good solid friendship. Thank you both, and how on earth could I forget or even almost omit my faithful daughter Kelsey who spent every night in the hospital with me. Her mere presence made all the difference in the world.
I am not 100% out of the woods, but I am hacking hard with an ax because of the determination and love and genuine care of life’s most valuable commodity: the human being.
Thank you ten times over to each and every one of you.   I don’t take it lightly or for granted that your time extended was something I was “owed” or “due” but rather that it exemplified the essence of  who you are as people.
Incidentally, people don’t always need or want to be acknowledged and when random acts of kindness come from the heart, it’s not necessary. But, it’s a good practice to let others know you appreciate them and to say thank you. For that reason, I specifically chose to compose this blog.
I love you all, and I am truly grateful.
Penny Dickerson 2011

One comment on “Great to be “GRATEFUL”

  1. There are many people who I love for their use of words. But you, my dear, are ranked right up there. Thanks for your transparency. I’ll have to bookmark you in ‘favorites’!


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