Choosing Thanks

Don’t just be grateful for comforts in life. Be even more thankful for difficulty”. – Braden

Today, family came in. It’s become a routine to have our Tennessee and West Texas family come together at our home in north Texas for Thanksgiving. Guess it just makes sense logistically. We’re located near the middle between the two. Still, I’m convinced it’s more than mere geography. It’s become a tradition.

Caitlin’s closest cousin, Lena Grace was able to be here which has been an answered prayer. When you’re from a family who got a late start, you get the raw end of the deal. Cait’s cousins are grown and gone for the most part now.

Lena has had a rough life at age 13, but she’s as strong and feisty as a Tennessee mare. When I first met her, she was just a little girl. I still recall her spinning around a pole at the funeral home in Maryville. The occasion was the memorial service for her baby sister who had died within weeks following her birth from a very rare heart condition. When Lena and I first met at the funeral for her baby sister, little did I know the next loss would be my own son.

Death is horrific. Surreal. Devastating. The last thing we consider. Arguably more terrible for the survivors. Today is Thanksgiving. How can survivors even consider giving thanks in such tragic circumstances.


After Braden died, we received hundreds of letters, condolence cards, texts, phone calls, books, and emails. So many reaching into our lives. Today, I’m still reading numerous devotionals and texts from friends. In fact, I can rely upon a text each morning from “brothers” who have remained diligent and unrelenting in their support. There is no word in the dictionary to accurately describe that kind of loyal friendship.

During the first week after that terrible October day, we had a postal delivery to our front porch from Amazon. It was a fairly large package from Tennessee. When we opened it, we were moved to tears. It was a memorial candle sent from a very special young couple who had one child. A son.

We lit the candle immediately and placed it on the kitchen counter, centered among flowers, cards, and keepsakes. Our family believes in and practices traditions. Every holiday, it can be relied upon that we follow the tried and true. Traditions are the way we stay connected to the familiar in a world full of uncertainties.

Tonight, as we began our Thanksgiving tradition with our Tennessee and West Texas family, I lit the memory candle for our son. To most, it would seem a small insignificant thing. To us, it symbolizes Braden remains with us still and he always will.

Tonight I’m thankful to have family, knowing many do not. Thankful for the long list of blessings too often assumed to be somehow earned although they are undeserved. Thankful to know my Creator by His first name and to be certain He knows me. Thankful for friends, brothers, sisters, neighbors, and a community of fellow believers.

In the very midst of the hell we face in this temporary place, I’m grateful to know I will see my son and spend eternity with him. For these things, I am thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

5 thoughts on “Choosing Thanks

  1. Mark,
    As I lay here in Braden’s room and having read your latest journal entry, I find myself lost in thought. So much has happened to us in the past 6 years. The loss of a precious granddaughter, Randy’s battle with cancer, the loss of Braden, my Mother and Daddy. We have all watched both Caitlyn and Grace struggle with some pretty hard things that most adults never have to face and yet both our girls fighters. Both our girls will come out victorious. How do I know. . .I know because both have God in their corner. Just as each of us face some of life’s hard knocks, we too have God by our side. Our faith will bring us through this valley. I know that God is with us all and that He will never leave us. It is that promise that assures me that these things too shall pass. They will never go away but they will pass into a place of tolerance. God has ‘fixed’ us so that we are able to live with the pain of loss. God has also ‘fixed’ us with a natural desire to survive. I know that as we gather here with our dearest and so loved family members to give thanks for all He has blessed us with, that we will be OK.
    I do wish that Braden could know of the hundreds of people his life has affected. For a guy that never thought he really mattered to anyone he has changed lives and continues doing that. I miss him. He crosses my mind each day as I sit in front of my computer and stare at that beautiful face and think about the special bond we had for most of his life. I also think about his name for me. PEYAH. I would never have dreamed that a little two year old boy would create a name that would, years later, be what my grandchildren called me. Thank you Braden for your unconditional love of me and mine for you. And for your legacy of a name that for me was your way of letting me know I was loved.

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  2. Happy Thanksgiving to your family!
    May God bless you and your family every moment on this earth. Thank you so much for your wonderful impact on others.

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  3. Happy Thanksgiving sweet brother💕. Giving thanks in ALL things is easily said but sometimes the most difficult task of the days. Only By His Grace. Love you bunches♥️

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