What if I had never been born, never had an opportunity to experience human life? An odd question, but one that comes to me when I reflect on the day that my mother handed me an envelope containing an eight-by-ten glossy photo of a good-looking man she identified as “my first husband.” I was speechless.
As it turned out her first husband wasn’t in her life for long. He was a serviceman she eloped with when she was nineteen. Four months later my grandmother had the marriage annulled. I have no idea on what grounds, and I was too shocked to ask.
For me, my grandmother’s efforts to annul my mom’s marriage is a constant source of gratitude. Once my thoughts turn to my grandmother, I realize I have other generations to thank for my existence. There are all those unknown ancestors who preceded my grandparents. Go back ten generations and you find that more than one thousand ancestors had to exist to create the person you are today. One freak elopement or change along this path and you wouldn’t be here.
At a conference I attended this past weekend, Rev. Dr. Kenji Akahoshi spoke about the expression of gratitude as a deep spiritual experience. One aspect of gratitude involves looking back on the conditions that brought us into existence and that have influenced our lives. Many people I’ve met– family, friends, teachers, colleagues, bosses — have affected my values, skills, and attitudes. I owe them all a debt of gratitude, but none more than grandma for removing the interloper from my mother’s life until she could meet my dad.