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Gratitude: Your Name on My List

I’m starting the new year with a dollop of gratitude, and I’m starting with you.

If you are reading this – and of course, you are – I want you to know I’m thankful. I’m thankful you are here. That you care. That you are one of the brave ones.

Grief is scary. Painful. Difficult. It doesn’t take fearlessness to face it. It takes courage – facing it despite the uncertain and insecurity. You are here. You are brave.

I may not be able to call you by name. I’m thankful nonetheless. When you think of who made a difference in your life in 2018, whose face comes to mind? Whose name? Whose words or smile? Here are people who made a difference in my life in 2018.

The Inner Circle

My husband, Richard. For us, 2018 was a year of many new experiences, and he stuck by our love and our commitment. In December, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our engagement. I’m looking forward to growing closer to him as we launch a new decade.

I’m thankful for the sweethearts in our lives who live across the street. A… and H…., ages 11 and 10. We tutor them, but we also have the awesome privilege of being friends and guides. We love them as if they were our own. I pray 2019 will be an even brighter year for them.


Two of my best friends, Joanne and Jennifer, as I sign Grief Dialogues: The Book. I’m one of 61 contributors to the publication.

My closest friends, Joanne and Jennifer, are on my list. They show up. That’s huge. They were among others who attended my first book signing. I’m framing this photo of the three of us. They are like sisters.

Caring Crowd

The “others” at the signing: First and foremost, Jackie, who suggested her store as a site for the book signing. You were the impetus for this event. Thank you for the thrill of the year!

Of course, if Elizabeth Coplan hadn’t accepted my essay submission in the first place for Grief Dialogues: The Book, none of that would have happened. She knocked me off my feet the first time I met her at a Memphis restaurant in October.

“You’re such a talented author,” she said as she slid into a booth.

Wow. Talented. Author. What affirmation. I was humbled and elated at the same time.

We sold about 20 of the 25 books on the table. Thanks to fellow writer, Tracy Crump, and people like Alderwoman Pat Hamilton, and all the others who came out.

My mother-in-law, Anne, sent flowers to the signing. She’s consistently cheered me on as I’ve walked new career roads. She is one of my biggest fans. She adds wisdom to my life.

Sam Rikard, Raina Hanna and Bob Bakken, who shocked little ole me by publicizing the event on TV and in newspapers. You guys rock!

Confidence Builders

My confidence was a bottom feeder in 2017 as I struggled with a career disappointment and chronic illness, but 2018 was a sharp contrast to that year. Eric Jordan, publisher of The Connect Magazine, was a part of restoring my confidence and promoted me to an editing position in ’18. I’ve had to resign that job for new horizons, however, I’m grateful for the faith he put in me.

Lacey Johnson, the awesome founder of The Wonder Report, was my editor at The Connect Magazine and recommended me for the editing job. Watch this lady. She is going (more) places! Her faith and confidence in my writing, and the example she is, has been a huge inspiration.

In February, James Overstreet and Terry Hollahan asked me to join The Daily News as a freelancer. In the fall, the staff transitioned to a new online news source, The Daily Memphian. I’ve so enjoyed working with them, and, again, appreciate the confidence they’ve put in me.

Many Faces, Many Names

My new yoga teacher, Cedahlia at the YMCA, challenged me with kick-butt poses for my upper body. Doug and Sharla, Sunday school class leaders, amused us with their love of table and board games and soothed us with their friendship and wisdom. Our church group as a whole has been supportive, but I want to call out Marie, who has been a special cheerleader. When I delivered my testimony in the spring, her eyes didn’t stray from me. Nor did her smile.


My yoga teacher, Cedahlia, and me at the YMCA.

Deb, Polly, Nancy, Rachel, Bettie and Sheryl have been key encouragers as they’ve liked my blog posts on Facebook, and on Twitter, @GriefMaven @GoodGrievings @ConnectionsHope @maryanne_pope @GriefReiki @MarkLiebenow2 @JWtheWriter @Yasminpznd @LoriAMooreKY @julie_dibble @ElizabethCoplan @FettKeven and @griefsabitch consistently responded to tweets, and I loved reading theirs. I personally know most of the people who are friends with me on Facebook, however, the Twitter community is an amazing lifeline of perspective on grief. I’m so honored to be a part of your online lives.

Finally, I’m grateful for the family that bought my parents’ home in the spring, eight years after my mom died. I prayed for someone like you to come. To fall in love with the place and to renovate the deteriorated structure. Four days after we posted the site for sale, you came forward and gave us what we asked. What an incredible surprise and blessing.

I met your children, the ages of my brother and me when we moved to the property in Cayce, Mississippi. It was as if I was handing off the place to them. I hated to let go, but in the end, it all seemed right. It all seemed arranged. The house had served its purpose. First it had sheltered my parents. And then it had sheltered me in my grief as I went through every thread and paper and mourned through every memory and every discovery. Now the house will serve your family’s purpose. May it and God shelter you for a lifetime.

Did I miss anyone? I’m sure I did. Some of you prayed for me without revealing it, for example. Others worked behind the scenes, sort of speak, in other ways. Thank you, too.

I encourage you to reach out to the people who make a difference in your life, too. Gratitude is a fuel. It can lift us from the pit of sorrow. No, grief won’t disappear, but we can dilute its power with thanksgiving. Upon gratitude’s back we ride into a future brighter than the past behind us.

Who made a difference in your life in 2018? How did they make a difference?


Copyright © 2019 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved.


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sheryl M. Baker #

    Thanks, Toni. It has been a pleasure watching you on this journey since I met you. You are well on your way. Happy 2019 and many more blessings ahead. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    January 2, 2019

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