I Am Grateful

When “Thank you” doesn’t cover it and you’ve run out synonyms, how do you express your feelings of gratitude for, oh so many things?

I’m running out of words. You’d think a writer would have some in the bank, but the layers of things I have to say, “Thank you” for have bunched up into a thick wad of wonderfulness.

First, there was the doorstep applause for the NHS last Thursday night. I pulled open the front door feeling a little sheepish. What if no-one else was going to be out here? We live in a relatively quiet street, in a typically quiet ‘suburb’ (if you could call it that) on the edge of a decidedly quiet (but charming) city. I had already decided that if my neighbours, a lot of whom are elderly, hadn’t gotten the memo about the thank you to the NHS, I was going to get into the car and toot the horn!

But there was no need for that. The sound of clapping pattered between the houses like water slapping onto slabs of rock – a waterfall of thanks. As I stood out on the porch step, a neighbour (and friend) from across the street spotted me, called my name and whooped. Emotion rose in my throat, forcing me to answer with an involuntary, “Wooo hoo!” and before you knew it, we were cheering and blinking back the tears.

Later that night, I received an email I’d been waiting on all week. It was from my publisher, Castrum Press, to tell me that my book Rejuvenation Book One was live on Kindle. We were launched… The official launch at the amazing No Alibis bookstore in Belfast had had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus. I decided not to be sad about that. I am safe, my loved ones are safe, and for that, I am grateful. I am trying to learn not to complain about the little things. There’ll be plenty of time to hang out with readers and sign books – when this is all over.

I wanted to take this opportunity to expand on the acknowledgements in my trilogy.

When I started Rejuvenation, the amount of research it needed was almost overwhelming. People who were already over-stretched in their busy lives and hectic jobs willingly gave up their precious time to coach me through medical conditions and jargon. Their ability to tune into the human condition, be objective yet still compassionate, really helped me frame the character of Dr Bobbie Chan.

To the nurses in my life, your enthusiasm for your work and willingness to share your expertise left me humbled and full of gratitude. When I put out a call for guidance on medical issues, they jumped to offer me help. Do you ever switch off?

For fielding my stream of medical questions, thank you to Mickey Moen (for advice on fixing broken wrists and fractured skulls); Tracey McGuigan (for advice on hair regrowth); Paula Toner (you’re an inspiration); Prudence Vincent (I miss our chats and your take on life); Deidre McCory (I will follow you always); Frances Moen (my friend, confidant, and life guru); my (fairy) Godmother -Teresa Kelly (my shining light); and my Mum – Bernadette Grimley (to whom Rejuvenation Book One is dedicated – and no Granny is not based on you…honest – but Bobbie does take after you a lot).

Thank you also to Dr Orna Hananel-McCusker – for that phone consultation when you didn’t know me, had never met me, but as a friend of a friend, you still made time. Dr Dana McManus for your advice, encouragement and friendship – thank you.

If the writing world is a parody of the real world, it is no surprise that this medical team breathed life into my imaginary world and gave it substance.

Since the book has gone live, I’ve been staggering beneath the gratitude I feel for every message from friends and every comment on social media. I’ve had such support and love from my writing communities in both the USA and Europe. I’m sorry to bundle you all into one sentence because there is so many to thank and for so much! I’ve struggled to keep up with what folk have been saying across three (four if you count WhatsApp) different platforms. Thank you for the words of encouragement, the well-wishes, and the joy you’ve allowed me to experience. Already, I’ve had people contact me to say they’re enjoying the book. At the end of a long writing project, I realize that is why I write, why I kept writing in the dreary days, sitting by myself, slogging through the re-writes and the editing – the hard stuff. Perhaps writing is a parody of life right now. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Now that I’ve reached it, I’m standing blinking and a little bit blinded by it.

Writing feels to me like a smaller echo of what we are all going through with this crisis. Now, we all have to hunker down by ourselves, dig in, drag ourselves through the hard part, to eventually grab the reward – except for everyone now this time the reward is life itself.

Amid my gratitude, I’m mindful of the extreme suffering going on right now. I’m grieving for the loss of life from coronavirus, and from other diseases, not just biological but social ones too – world poverty, injustice, war. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if after we come together to fight and beat coronavirus, we tackle those other diseases with the same united force?

And there’s guilt too – how can I do more to help? I’m staying home, doing my best not to spread this virus. It doesn’t feel heroic, but people need to know it that it is – it really is. And we are a collective hero – together- but six-feet apart. It’s all I, personally can do right now. To those of you who can’t stay home, who have to risk catching the virus to keep the world functioning and to help the afflicted, these words are not enough, but they’re all we have…

Thank you.

Byddi Lee