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On Gratitude and Embracing What Remains

Posted on Nov 21, 2006 by

I was looking for something to put up about loss and gratitude before taking a brief break for the Thanksgiving holiday and then I remembered this from the end of Andre Dubus’ essay, “Broken Vessels,” (which I wrote about earlier this week).

The passage can be found on p. 194 of Broken Vessels, this the next to the last page of the essay, and the book.

A week ago I read again The Old Man and the Sea, and learned from it that, above all, our bodies exist to perform the condition of our spirits: our choices, our desires, our loves. My physical mobility and my little girls have been taken from me; but I remain. So my crippling is a daily and living sculpture of certain truths: we receive and we lose, and we must try to achieve gratitude; and with that gratitude to embrace with whole hearts whatever of life that remains after the losses. No one can do this alone, for being absolutely alone finally means a life not only without people or God or both to love, but without love itself. In The Old Man and Sea, Santiago is a widower and a man who prays; but the love that fills and sustains him is of life itself: living creatures, and the sky, and the sea. Without that love, he would be an old man alone in a boat.

I like the language Dubus uses here—the way, sometimes, we have to work to “achieve” gratitude—the way this might not always come naturally—but still it can come—at least at moments–and sometimes those moments can be enough: moments in which we are able to embrace what remains.