Welp, it’s that time of year. Thanksgiving. Believe it or not, there are people who actually focus on what they’re thankful for, more than what’s on the menu As I’ve grown older, and experienced the good, bad, and ugly of life, I have learned, and I’m STILL learning how to be thankful for EVERYTHING. Even death.
Two years ago I lost my sister. Biologically, she was my cousin. However, everything about our relationship screamed sisterhood. Her name was Toya and I worked her nerves, just like a little sister is supposed to. I wanted to go everywhere with her. Everything about her was cool. Toya could do no wrong, and the only time she annoyed me, was when she made me scratch her back, lol. Toya was known for sucking her thumb while rubbing your ears, and if you had a head full of dandruff she wasn’t going to let you leave the house without her scratching it with a comb.
I was at work on a Friday, when my grandma called me around 4 p.m. She told me to pray, because Toya fell out and was rushed to the hospital. We hung up, and she called me 5 minutes later saying to come to the hospital, because they were trying to resuscitate Toya. I was COMPLETELY thrown off, and asked my supervisor “Doesn’t resuscitate mean bring back to life?” I flew to the hospital. I found my family in the waiting room at the ER. Everyone was uneasy and really didn’t know what to say. I began to pray. The doctors came and told us we could see Toya, who was unconscious. I’ll never forget seeing my cousin having back to back seizures. I’ll never forget blood coming out of her mouth. I’ll never forget the 5 days of waiting for her to regain consciousness. I’ll never forget how cold her feet were. I had three breakdowns. And because I couldn’t force myself to walk away from her for the last time, I’ll never forget how my family had to carry me out the hospital room. The funeral. The repass. Life without her. The smell of flowers making me sick. Our empty home that Toya and I shared. Depressed. Yeah, I’ll never forget.
Toya bumped her leg on Labor Day and had been complaining about the pain days later. She went to the doctor and came home on crutches. All she could do was keep her leg elevated and hopefully things would improve. Well, because Toya was pregnant with her first child, the doctors couldn’t perform a x-ray. Therefore, they were unable to detect the huge blood cot that traveled to her lungs, causing death.
In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
I read this scripture while grieving the loss of Toya and it immediately became my go-to scripture. To my surprise I didn’t have a “Are you serious God? How can I give thanks for this?” moment. As soon as I read it, and thought about everything, it all made sense to me. Here’s why:
- Prior to Toya and I living together, I was living in Jackson, MS for an internship. Would if I was living in different state when all of this occurred and couldn’t get to Toya as quickly as I did?
- I got to spend Toya’s last year of life on this earth as her roommate. We had sleepovers, bible studies, junk food fests, cracked up at thee very first Love & Hip Hop, and was weirdly addicted to celebrity choreographer Laurie Ann Gibson’s show “Born to Dance”. Seriously, we would randomly yell out “Boom boom cat” (You had to have watched the show to understand). Oh, I almost forgot, together Toya and I declared war on the family of raccoons living in our roof. I can’t tell you how many times I called her wanting to know if she’d be home anytime soon, because the raccoons were scaring me, lol. Basically, we had a chance to do life together, and that is God’s grace. Indeed.
- I was also able to give thanks, because God’s word is true. Ecclesiastes 3 says “there is a time to be born, and there is a time to die”. I’ll never forget as they closed Toya’s casket, her sister yelled out “Thank you Jesus for 36 years of life”. POWERFUL. Truth is, God did not promise us 1 year of life, so we better be grateful everyday we’re still here. Toya lived her years. Do I wish she had more? Of course. But that was her time.
- Last but not least, God was, and still is good. In the midst of my sleepless and teary nights, he wasn’t afar off. No. He was there rocking me to sleep. Allowing me to rest in Him. Depression caused me not to study or deeply read my bible for an entire year. However, even in my broken-ness His word was hidden in my heart and continued to encourage me. Grace and mercy surely follows me.
If you recently lost a loved one, please know it gets better. Our first Thanksgiving with Toya was miserable. Someone was clearly missing, and our hearts were officially broken. But God… He is a heart fixer. Do you ever stop missing them? Of course not. Will the tears go away? In my case, no. Will the pain ever lift? It will, but traces will remain. However, as time goes on you’ll see how death makes you appreciate life so much more. You’ll find joy in the little things. A sunset. A cup of coffee. A yes. A no. You’ll learn to thank God for it all, especially death. BUT… you’ll also learn that as a believer death has absolutely NO victory over you. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).
So, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
Toya Haki Vann