Giving Thanks This Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thanksgiving was a holiday that my aunt hosted every year. She was the anchor of our family and would welcome anyone to the Thanksgiving table we invited. Last November, she passed away suddenly after being released from the hospital just the day before. We were shocked and overwhelmed with grief. I know the holidays aren't always joyous and easy to celebrate, but today, I am giving thanks for many things... 

This year, family has come from all over to gather at my mom's house in Atlanta. We signed up for the Turkey Trot 5k/10k/Half Marathon race and were looking forward to running/walking together as a family on Thanksgiving day. In the wee hours of the morning, my cousin ended up in the emergency room. We took their kids to run the 5k to stay busy while we waited for updates from the hospital and found out she is having surgery to remove her gall bladder. I am so thankful she will be okay, and might even make it home in time for dinner! I'm thankful for the reminder that anything can happen at any moment... we are not promised a tomorrow.

I'm thankful for my health today as I know many people are fighting for theirs. I'm thankful for the doctors & nurses out there who care about their patients and desire to make a difference in the world through helping others. They are a gift. I'm thankful for modern and ancient medicine to support us when our bodies need it. I am thankful for friends and family, my most important investment in life. 

I am thankful to have so many supporters who believe in the mission of Love Not Lost to support and love people in grief. Many of you have helped get us to where we are today and I am so grateful. I am thankful for the incredible families we have met who have continued to show me the depth of love you can have for someone and the joy that it brings every day. 

Today, I want to share one of those families with you. The Suarez family is so full of love it just overflows to everyone around them. I'm so glad they applied for a session and we were able to capture some really fun memories together. They are an incredible family and one I thought would be perfect to share this Thanksgiving. 

When I got to Madison, WI, the first day was really chilly, but the Suarez family and I made it to a park near their home to capture the last bit of sunshine despite the cold wind. Alex is such a great big brother to Alanis, who has SMA type 1. If you've read my story, you know that this is the same condition that my daughter had. Alanis is doing awesome and it was so great to spend time with them over the weekend. 

The following day we were waiting out the rain and decided to take pictures in the house. Because SMA takes away muscle strength, being in water is very freeing for SMA kids. The weight of their limbs is lifted and they can enjoy a wider range of movement. The Suarez's are such great parents - they will fill up a blow up pool in their dining room to provide a space for Alanis to play with them. Alanis was able to play the whole time without her bi-pap mask, which helps her breathe at night, during nap times, and sometimes when she just needs a break and extra support. She gave us some amazing smiles. 

After the rain cleared, we went to the Madison zoo to ride the carousel and capture memories out of the house together as a family. Any SMA parent knows getting out of the house is never easy, so capturing these memories together was really special. The zoo even had a handicapped train car so we could put Alanis and her stroller into the little car with her mom, while Alex, his dad, and I rode in the one in front. The staff was so helpful and made sure we had an incredible experience - I am so thankful for them. I was smiling so much my face hurt at the end of the weekend. We had so much fun together!  

I hope you enjoy these highlights from our trip to Madison to capture and preserve memories for the Suarez family. If you are reading this blog, I am thankful for you. Thank you for caring about what we are doing and for your support. 

We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and find reasons to give thanks no matter what your circumstances are today. Love and peace to you as we enter the holiday season!