I remember dancing to the swing tune “In the Mood” with my grandfather, Robert Fleck Sr., during my wedding reception in 2002. He had been diagnosed with stomach cancer three years prior and underwent stomach removal surgery. Despite my grandfather’s hardships, he never lost his sense of humor. Shortly after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, my husband and I welcomed our second son. We named him Gavin Robert, in honor of my grandfather. The family was together again to celebrate my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah in May 2008. When the deejay played, of all things, “In the Mood,” my grandfather and I danced. I will never forget his smile that night. He was not at his strongest, but he could still cut a rug. He passed away a year later. I will always remember that last dance. It taught me to slow down and enjoy life. I look on the bright side, and I laugh as much as possible. I am so grateful for my grandfather, and for the life lessons he taught me.
Page 2: Nina Bennett | Newark
I did not choose to become a bereaved grandmother. The night my granddaughter Maddy was unexpectedly born still, many choices were taken from me. It took a year of sleepless nights before I realized I had a monumental choice to make. I had withdrawn from all social activity, and found myself unable to connect with my surviving grandchildren. I could remain paralyzed by my grief and become increasingly bitter and isolated, but I knew that merely existing would not bring Maddy to life. I decided that the way I could most effectively honor her was by increasing awareness of perinatal bereavement and its impact on families, and I couldn’t do that huddled in a corner. I interpreted the dictate of Jewish sages, and I chose life. I made a conscious decision to live exuberantly and to appreciate the beauty surrounding me. I did this not to run from my grief, but to confront and embody it. Acknowledging my grief permits me to acknowledge my granddaughter. The joy of anticipation meant something. The excitement with which I prepared for my youngest son’s first child mattered. Although she is not holding my hand as we explore the rough texture of tree bark or lay on our backs discussing the shapes of clouds, she is with me. It is up to me to savor the sunsets, to exclaim over meteor showers, and to catch snowflakes on my tongue. I believe that by fully embracing the wonders that life offers, I send this message: Maddy’s life was worthwhile.
Page 3: Christine Walton | Wilmington
I read by flashlight to my toddler, Charming, from the book “Goodnight Nobody,” by Jennifer Weiner. “Goodnight nobody, goodnight mush, goodnight old lady whispering hush, goodnight stars, goodnight air.” I fall asleep to Charming’s soft snoring. As he cradles his head between my chin and chest, thoughts of tomorrow slip from my mind. I know magical moments like these will only happen for the next few years. Soccer balls and Xbox will replace Thomas the Train, and I will no longer be the girl whose face Charming covers in kisses. I’ll have plenty of time to sleep then. But for tonight, I will read to Charming. I’ve kissed a lot of frogs. I’m thankful to have found my prince.
Page 4: Kevin Phillipson | Dover
I married Angie, the love of my life, in 2006. We work together daily, travel often, and spend hours driving and talking. I married Angie to spend time with her, not apart from her, and she is my priority. We make dates for dinner. We regularly get couples’ manicures and pedicures. Our time together is important, and I value it. I work hard to be a better husband than I was in my previous marriage. I learned the hard way to value my wife, friends and family. In 1992, when I emigrated to the states from South Africa, I lived a couple hours from my grandmother. When she passed away, I realized that despite our proximity, we hadn’t spoken for years. I never made it a priority to even call, let alone visit. I encourage everyone to think of those friends and family you never have time for and to make them a priority. I encourage husbands to do more to be better husbands. To quote the Tim McGraw song, “Live Like You Were Dying,” be a friend that “a friend would like to have.”
Page 5: Steve Yearick | Bear
I am thankful for the simple things because they have always led to the bigger things—things like being born an American, having wonderful, caring parents, brilliant and giving siblings, and a terrific extended family. I’m grateful for having been divorced—yes, divorced (I learned a lot)—then remarried to the true love of my life. I have a step-daughter who could not be any more loved or cherished if she bore my own DNA. She is my daughter and has given me a grandson that I would not otherwise have had and whom I love more than I can explain. There is no bad thing in my life that didn’t lead to a good thing. Call me charmed—which I very well may be—or call this clichéd, but I am truly grateful for everything in my life that has brought me to this point. I can honestly say that I consider myself the luckiest man alive.