By Reba Phelps

A really hot cup of coffee, perfectly creamed, on a mild day with friends and family on my porch with absolutely no where to be. Watching my daughters tease each other mercilessly about every minor thing. A long conversation with my best friend twice a day. Taking a long walk when spring is doing its thing. A family get together in Zwolle with old stories that never get old and actually get funnier as time goes on. Spending time with family who do not share the same last name or DNA as me.

At this point in my life I find it so easy to pick out the everyday occurrences that cause my thankful heart to overflow with joy.

This has not always been the case.

Before my mother passed away in 2011 we had a daily ritual. She would call me in the mornings while I was getting the children ready for school. I would very politely inform her that it was not the best time to talk as we were usually running somewhat behind schedule.

She would always say, “don’t forget to call me.”

We may or may not have chit chatted once during the work day. Like clockwork, when I got home in the evening she would always call while I was cooking supper and wrangling kids. Again, I would have to let her know the timing was just not right.

She would end the call with, “don’t forget to call me.”

This went on for 12 years. Same calls. Same time. Mildly annoyed. Until one day it stopped.

One Friday afternoon in April, while I was extremely busy with my coworkers, getting ready for the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast, my mother and father stopped by my office for a visit. I was already outside in the parking lot when they arrived so I introduced them to my friends that were with me. I had no idea that this beautiful windy spring day would be the last time I saw my mother alive.

The days and months that followed were riddled with extreme guilt over not being more grateful and appreciative of all of the time I had with my mother. For weeks I could not even bear to be in the house at dinner time because my phone was not ringing.

I would agonize over how many precious moments I had missed with my mother being irritated over the ill timed phone calls.

It took a very long time to forgive myself for not being more thankful and present in the moment with her. At the same time it also caused me to recognize my blessings and not take anything or anyone for granted. I believe the most grateful people in life are grateful because they have lost something before. If you haven’t experienced any type of loss it is truly hard to know what you are missing.

Unbeknownst to one of my good friends, she texted me the following information she received from her mother about being grateful.

Research shows that people that live with gratitude are more resilient emotionally, they have happier memories, and they are less envious. When you live with gratitude you are less self-centered, more optimistic and more spiritual.

Gratitude even improves your health. You have improved sleep, you are less sick, and you have increased energy. Socially, it makes you a kinder person with deeper relationships.

Having gratitude in your career makes your days more full of better decision making and increased productivity.

It is much more simple and peaceful in your heart when you look around and appreciate the big things in life and the tiny things. Sometimes the tiny things add up. Having lived with the loss of a parent and the loss of a marriage family unit it has caused many ups and downs but the root of the day always comes back to counting my blessings and appreciating family more than they annoy me.

Now, when I revisit the memories of my mother I choose to think what she really meant when she said, “don’t forget to call me,” was, “don’t forget to be grateful.”

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

Colossians 3:15