2161) Thankful for What’s Left

By Sandra P. Aldrich, adapted from her book Living Through the Loss of Someone You Love (1990, Regal)


     My husband, Don, had always been in charge of the car maintenance, so after his death to cancer, I was too exhausted to think about our station wagon’s balding tires.

     But one afternoon, a blowout on the expressway forced me to enter the unfamiliar world of four-ply radials and speed ratings.  I nodded at appropriate times as the salesman explained the importance of computerized spin balancing, but the strain showed.

     The young man sensed my confusion.   “Why don’t you grab a cup of coffee next door while we get you all fixed up?” he suggested.

     I nodded and, with misty eyes, trudged outside. “Lord, I hate it that Don’s dead,” I muttered.  “He should be buying these tires.. . . He should be making the financial decisions…. He should be helping me raise Jay and Holly. .. . I need some encouragement, Lord.”

     I wiped my eyes and turned toward the restaurant parking lot.  A young woman was standing next to her car’s open hood.  I offered to help, but she insisted the engine would start again in another 15 minutes—after it cooled off.  So we pushed it out of the way, and I invited her to have coffee with me.

     Over the steaming cups, she asked if I was married.  When I told her Don had died last Christmas, I expected her to mutter, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

     Instead she shrugged. “How long were you married?”

     “Sixteen and a half years,” I stammered.

     She took a sip of her coffee. “Did you love him?”

     “Yes, very much.”

     “Did he love you?”

     I smiled. “Oh, yes.”

     Again she shrugged. “Then you’ve already experienced more love than most of us ever have.  Think of that instead of what you’ve lost.”

     Then she told about her divorce—the beatings, the custody battles, the continuing threats.  Suddenly she looked at her watch. “Hey, I gotta get to work.  But thanks for listening.  That helped a lot.”

     She was gone before I could tell her how she had helped me.  I stared at her empty chair, shaking my head at the bizarre way God had answered my tearful prayer.  “Okay, Lord,” I thought, “I’ll try to concentrate on what I have left instead of what I’ve lost.  But you’ll have to help me.”

     A few weeks later, our first Thanksgiving without Don tested that determination.  My husband’s favorite holiday meal had always been the traditional turkey dinner.  He’d invite the relatives, and I’d cook a 22-pound bird with all the fixings.

     This time I couldn’t cook if he wasn’t there.  Some well-meaning friends had invited us for dinner, but I didn’t want to spend the day with someone else’s perfect family.  If I was going to compare myself to others, I wanted the comparison going in the right direction.

     So I called the Salvation Army and offered the three of us as meal servers.  That was the right decision; an afternoon of heapng food on sturdy paper plates instead of my blue and white china—for other single mothers, street people, the elderly and even entire families, forced me to think about those around me.  What had they lost?  What about the fiftyish woman in the summer-weight dress?  Had her husband once whispered, “Great meal, Hon,’ as he squeezed her shoulders?  Or had he left her for someone younger?  At least I didn’t have to deal with rejection, too.

     How about that man in the shiny suit?  Did he live in a silent hotel room?  Did he come here for the company as well as the food?  I smiled at Jay and Holly. We still had each other.

     When it was time to wipe the tables that afternoon, I whispered my thanks to the Lord for getting us through our first Thanksgiving as a family of three.  Oh, I figured challenges would still sneak up on the, but I knew I had a new weapon to face them: Concentrating on what I still had left instead of what I had lost.

Image result for soup kitchen images young family serving


“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many;  not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”    –Charles Dickens


(After Stephen commented on how Levin always seemed to be so happy):  Levin replied, “Perhaps that is because I rejoice in what I have and do not bother about what I don’t have.”    —Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy


When I came to faith in Christ, my skeptical father said, “You’ll get over it.”  It has now been over forty-five years, and I’m grateful I’ve never gotten over it—it has been a daily source of happiness.  When my dad, cancer-ridden and desperate at age eighty-five, surrendered his life to Christ, I celebrated his conversion.  I still rejoice every time this moment comes to mind.  If I find myself wishing my dad had come to my ball games and taken me fishing and said “I love you” when I was a kid, I choose instead to be grateful for the good things about him.  I thank God for using him in my life decades before he came to Jesus.  My father sometimes failed me; such is life under the Curse.  But my Father God has never failed me, even when I don’t understand His plan.  –Randy Alcorn, in his November 27, 2019 blog, at:  http://www.epm.org


II Corinthians 1:3-4  —  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Psalm 103:1-2  —  Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

James 1:16-17a  —  My dear brothers and sisters, don’t let anyone fool you.  Every good and perfect gift is from God…


When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

–Johnson Oatman, Jr.  (1856-1922)