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A life well lived should be celebrated with gratitude

How can we be thankful in a world so steeped in fear, ponders grief specialist and bereavement counsellor on Thanksgiving weekend
2021-10-09 - Breadner Column (2)

Thanksgiving! This weekend I sit in awe and wonder. Awe that we, in our medical advancements, can keep people alive so long and, wonder, what is crossing the minds of those who cannot speak? 

I have heard how people are afraid they will get sick and die. Many who I work with wish the die part would happen. They are very sick and have been for a long time.

Society somehow teaches us that to die is to lose the race, be defeated, or is punishment to be avoided at all costs. We read obituaries that use words and sentences like, “lost the battle” or “succumbed to injuries”. Or when a ship goes down it is reported how many “lost souls” were on board. When we console, we are sorry for the person’s loss and yet we rarely rejoice in the birthing of the soul to the next adventure. It feels wrong.

Is it a dreary way to start this pondering on what is our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend of 2021? A time for family and food and thankfulness. How can we be thankful in a world so steeped in fear?

It is Saturday as I put pen to paper, and I have been up for a few hours. Today, I was up early to take my car in for a new set of tires. I am excited because I have wanted new snow tires for at least two years. It was two years ago when I was told the ones on the rims were aging and should be their final year. I also wanted new snow tires when last year the mechanic asked me again, “Are you replacing these tires soon?” I had a flat and he would only plug it if I promised to replace them before next season. Many skeptics and cynics will say he just wanted to sell me a set of tires, and that may very well be true. I could not buy them that day and was thankful the one tire could be repaired to get me on my way.

So today is a grand day when I get to buy four new tires for my car. It makes me ponder about the old tires. Are they saying to themselves, “finally she is letting me die, and not keeping me on for her own needs! I have been sick for so long.” 

I decided to walk back home after dropping my car off at the garage. I put on my stretch pants, raincoat and running shoes. Donning my step tracker and heart monitor, I headed out the door. The scheduler, Winston, was waiting for me to drop my car by 8 a.m. It was 8:30. As I arrived, I apologized for being tardy and he welcomed me with smiling eyes. His associate jokingly noted, via stage left whisper, to tell me the tire sale ended at 8:30 and they both had a chuckle. Joy was in the air. 

I left my vehicle in good hands with a grateful heart, I headed out the door to walk home. My phone rang. It was a video chat call from my daughter inviting me for tofurky dinner today! She offered to give me a lift, since it was raining. Since I never turn down the chance to visit with my family, I gratefully accepted. I went out to wait. 

While waiting outside, I thought to myself, “The sun is coming out!” Yet it was raining. I realized there were floodlights facing me. I stepped out of the rain, and imagined the lights on my face were the sun and I was on a beach. Just then, I could hear the sea birds cawing, opened my eyes and realized it was the squeak of the sliding door as a man walked in. As he walked along, he dropped his keys. I yelled, “you dropped something!” He picked them up and turned to face me as if to say “obviously” with a smile. I yelled, “better hurry, sugar melts in the rain!” He looked back with a shy grin and got into his truck. I waited in my dreamed-up sunshine and listened to the door as my birds. My daughter pulled up and we joyfully chatted away as we made the journey across town.

As I sit and watch my clients watching Kenny Rogers in concert singing “The Greatest”,  I am reminded, once again, how perspective changes everything. As I watch these people, I have little knowledge of their lives. I have no idea whether they wish the “die” part of “get sick and die” would happen. What I do know is my own hope is if I am to get sick, I want to be allowed to die with joy, and not with the thought that my battle is lost.

Every day I find something to bask in and believe to be a miracle. Life is not a game where it is a loss that we die in the end. Life is a series of happenings and events that we can choose to embrace, welcome, and weather. Some are happy and some, not so much. Some are predicted and some are spontaneous. Some are welcomed and some unwelcome. Just plan that when you lay your head down for the last time it will be with a sense of completion and little regret. 

On this Thanksgiving weekend, if you must regret, then regret you did not love more, live more, and forgive more. Finish things when you have the chance. Speak those unspoken words. Clear up those misunderstandings. Say sorry even if you are just sorry that you are out of sorts with your sister, but you are still right! (Rule #1: if you have a choice to be right or to be kind, always be kind.)

Choose to find the sunshine in some floodlights and birds in the squeak of a door. Compliment a stranger, and if someone is unkind refer to Rule #1.

Hope that when it is your time to die, you do so, crossing the finish line in victory, receiving the gold medal for a first-place finish for a life well lived. Give yourself permission to die at some point with joy and knowing that we all will do it, it is never reserved for just some of us. It is never “if” it is always “when”.

Time is not limited, it is our perceptions that are limited. Make the most of each moment of each day finding deep gratefulness by letting go of the petty jealousies and perceived lack.

Should today be your day to go, go knowing you have lived Rule # 1 and left no gratefulness unturned. Maybe begin to wonder what life would be like if we started to think about “getting to die” as the final gift of a life well lived as opposed to a punishment. 

Cynthia Breadner is a local grief specialist and bereavement counsellor, a soul care worker and offers specialized care in Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy with special attention as a cognitive behavioral therapy practitioner and trauma incident resolution facilitator.  She volunteers at hospice, works as a LTC chaplain and is a death doula, assisting with end-of-life care for client and family. She is the mother part of the #DanCynAdventures duo and practices fitness, health and wellness. She is available remotely by safe and secure video connections, if you have any questions contact her at


Cynthia Breadner

About the Author: Cynthia Breadner

Writer Cynthia Breadner is a grief specialist and bereavement counsellor, a soul care worker providing one-on-one support at
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