January

January 13, Margaret Brandt Surratt

Stroke of Gratitude

My husband Ray and I were married in 1997 and enjoyed a charmed and active life together.

On January 13, 2000, I returned home from work to find Ray on the floor of our bathroom. At 45-years old, he had suffered a stroke, and our lives changed forever. He lost use of the left side of his body.

We were both devastated as we faced an uncertain and frightening future together.

Initially, I could not help but dwell on the many things that we could no longer do as a couple. This mental list grew longer and longer and led me to a very bleak perspective filled with hopelessness, bitterness, and jealousy of others. Yet, with the support of family, friends, coworkers, caregivers, and complete strangers, we managed to uncover a glimmer of hope.

I am forever grateful to these people.

Instead of focusing on restrictions on our new lifestyle, we considered the multitude of things that were within our grasp.

Skiing was definitely out, but we could play golf with just a few accommodations. We could not walk together on the beach, but we could watch and listen to the crashing waves from an ocean-view deck. Ray would not be playing football with friends, but we could still tailgate and cheer on our Wake Forest Demon Deacons at home football games. With a little help, we could travel to unknown destinations.

Gratitude emerged through our hope for the future as we were able to reframe our perspective. We were thankful for our ability to do things we enjoyed together and avoided dwelling on our inability to do things precluded by Ray’s disability.

We feel fortunate because we know things could have been far worse for us. Seventeen years later, we continue to be grateful to have each other as we live our lives together savoring every minute.

This life event has brought us closer together and deepened our love for one another. How can I not be grateful?

 

–Margaret Brandt Surratt

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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