I’m not good at expressing gratitude. Or I try to be too good at expressing it. I don’t know, but when someone gives me something or does something for me, I’m so grateful but I immediately also feel tons of guilt. They just did something for me and I feel like I have to thank them over and over and over again until I can think of a way to actually repay them. Like if someone opens the door for me, the best thing that could happen is if there’s another door up ahead that I can open for them. Otherwise I either come off as ungrateful, or I get stuck in this “thank you” cycle that gets weird.
I’m trying to think of a movie character or somebody who has this form of gratitude syndrome to show how bad it is… I can’t think of any, but if there’s not one, there should be (Tina Fey, if you’re reading this, you’re welcome). Like a woman who drops a huge stack of papers and keeps mumbling “thank you, I really appreciate it, that’s so thoughtful of you” like a blubbering idiot while someone helps her pick them up. Said idiot would then offer to carry their briefcase, buy them lunch, make them copies, and so on while continuing to drop all of the papers that are being placed on the building stack in her arms. This would frustrate and annoy, probably even creep out, the other person until they slowly backed away into an elevator and pushed the “door close” button as fast as they could, cutting off the woman abruptly as she tried to follow, offering her first born child as a token of her gratitude. In the next scene, a fellow pedestrian would push her out of the way of an oncoming bus and she’d be so floored that she’d whisper “thanks” before sprinting in the other direction because there’s no way she can adequately thank the person. You get the picture. One extreme or the other, there is no in-between.
I think what it is is that one, deep down I don’t feel worthy of people’s charity, two, it makes me uncomfortable to be indebted to people, and three, my social awkwardness knows no limits. I’m very grateful to people who help me, but man I just don’t know what to do with my hands when they do something for me. It’s something I’m working on, and I’ve had lots of opportunity in the last four months to do just that. I have been the recipient of so many acts of service since Gregg died that I’m basically an anxious Thank You card flailing around in a wind tunnel.
I’m going to tell you about everything that everyone has done for me since December 26. This is going to be hard, because my gratitude feels inadequate and also hasn’t been fully expressed to a lot of people, because I haven’t been able to find the energy to start writing thank you’s to people who should have them. This is also going to get really wordy, which is also hard for me because I thrive on getting to the damn point. I’m not going to use any names, because I don’t want this to be a name dropping party and some of the people who served me I didn’t even know. And I won’t even tell you how awkward I was when they did things for me, I’ll just let you use your imagination.
Where do I even start. The night Gregg died, one of my best friends dropped everything and came to sit with me in the middle of the night. My Bushman family bent over backwards to give me everything I needed, because I didn’t even know what that was. My parents took care of Thomas for days, but still brought him to see me often so we wouldn’t miss each other too much. The day after Gregg died, someone brought me a handbook on survivor’s benefits from the VA. Another best friend and her mom drove hours to see me. People brought us food, so much delicious food, which eventually brought back my appetite. So many people called or sent messages of love and support, all of which I read, most of which I couldn’t reply to.
People gave me money and gift cards, lots. People that I didn’t even know just handed it to me. Friends, old and new, sent it with sweet messages. Family, lots of family who I know have their own things to worry about. Family members of friends. Friends of family members. A good man and friend of Gregg’s started a fundraiser for us, where tons more people donated, and then his own organization pitched into the fund. I don’t know what I would have done. Becoming a widowed mother of two at 27 years old wasn’t something I had prepared for financially. It should have been.
My brother-in-law looked up all the logistical things I needed to do, which was something that helped my need to “do” in the short-term and also helped secure mine and the boy’s stability in the long-term. One of my best friends drove me to one meeting and sat with me. My sister drove me to another.
My sister-in-law literally did most of the funeral planning that I couldn’t handle. Gregg’s sweet grandma let us use the last family plot left so Gregg could be close to his mom. My sweet father-in-law put his own grief and needs after mine, and everyone else’s. My sister-in-laws traveled across the country with their families to be with us, and saying that they were a huge comfort and help is an understatement. My brother-in-law picked out Gregg’s burial clothes, which I know was difficult. Everyone helped to take care of Luke during the nights he was doing the crying newborn thing.
Friends and family came from all over. People dropped their plans, their lives, and came to honor Gregg and say goodbye. My sister and brother-in-law flew from across the world. A close friend spoke at Gregg’s funeral at the last minute and gave a wonderful tribute. Gregg’s siblings gave him the sweetest goodbye I could imagine. One of my best friends made a collage, and all of Gregg’s family worked on the display. Old friends sent a beret and a medal that I couldn’t get. My sister- and brother-in-law broke into my apartment to find things I needed. My sister held Thomas during the funeral while I held Luke. My auntie played with Thomas at the cemetery.
When I got home, my sister-in-law went with me, for almost two weeks. My church family brought me dinners. My neighbor down the hall, who had been charmed by Gregg in the months after we moved in, brought me and Thomas breakfast and dinner every day until we moved out three weeks later. An old friend from high school that I hadn’t talked to in years brought me a baby carrier for Luke. Another classmate brought me a plaque she had custom made, commemorating Gregg. A woman whom I had only met once brought me enough diapers and baby wipes to last for months (and with two kids in diapers, that’s a lot). When I was so desperately reaching for something I could control and was about to pull a Britney 2007, one of my best friends colored my hair, another friend from school cut it, and neither wanted payment.
My church family helped me pack, clean, and load up my apartment. Friends helped me go through Gregg’s Army stuff, and made countless trips to goodwill. My cousin and auntie drove it all my crap up north. My sister and brother-in-law let us live with them. They helped us immensely, and we were so well-fed. Seriously.
When I surrendered my car to the bank after filing for bankruptcy, my parents let me borrow theirs. My cousin’s husband went to an auction for me to try to get me a new car on the cheap. An old classmate from high school put me in touch with a kind man who said he could get me a car at an auction. He made two 8+ hour round trips and was able to get me a reliable car for the cash I had, at a much cheaper price than I would have paid anywhere else.
My sister- and brother-in-law helped me move up to Utah, and let me be their roommate. Every day they help with the boys, give me a break, and do all the adult stuff that gets harder when you’re the only one.
Even months later, people serve us. A business owner in Snowflake held a raffle for us. A man whom Gregg and I met on his mission is making a video of Gregg’s life. My family and Gregg’s family call and ask what they can do, or they just do without even being asked.
Gah, I can’t believe I almost forgot about the people who helped me find some pretty, comfortable dresses to wear to the services! I had a suitcase full of only leggings and needed something that felt like pajamas, but looked classy. One friend let me shop her home boutique, one helped me find one online, which someone anonymously paid for. My sister and her sweet mother-in-law gave me another. I felt like the funeral was my last date with Gregg, so I wanted to feel good about myself and not like a frumpy mess. And then there was the viewing, and Luke’s baby blessing… Those dresses helped immensely with feeling my level of comfort.
I hope I didn’t miss anyone. I realize that a lot of these things were more done for Gregg, but me and Thomas and Luke are the ones that are benefiting from it. There was a lot. I was literally carried through a time when I could not walk. People kept telling me they were amazed at how well I was coping. It wasn’t me, it was you. You and your service to me, as well as my Heavenly Father, carried me, and continue to carry me, through this dark time. Thank you.