Ann Voskamp had a recurring nightmare: She’d been diagnosed with cancer, but no one cared.
Ann’s little sister had died when Ann was only four, and the tragedy had defined her family’s life. Her mother was in and out of psychiatric wards. Ann battled anxiety, and an inner voice told her she was a failure.
But one day she got a card from her father-in-law who really had lost his wife of 50 years…to cancer.
He wrote, “Thinking on the beginning of this year, who does God call to come home? Is it me, Lord? May I be ready.”
So, Ann wanted to know, how I do I live in this life so I’m ready for the next?
How does one fully live this life?
In a beauty parlor one day she saw a woman reading a book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die. She wondered, if I die of cancer, I’ll never get to see gazelles migrating in the Serengeti. I’ll never get to climb Machu Pichu, or whatever.
I’m just a homeschooling mother of six, washing towels, cleaning toilets.
She asked, “Are there places that must be known, accomplishments that must be had, before one is really ready?”
“Are there physical places that simply must be seen before I stop breathing within time, before I inhale eternity?”
“Why? To say that I’ve had reason to bow low? To say that I’ve seen beauty? To say that I’ve been arrested by wonder?”
“Isn’t the wonder here?
And she remembered that 12 hours before he was crucified, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it.
In meditating on the Greek word “gave thanks,” eucharesteo, she realized that the root word charis meant “grace,” and a derivative of charis was cara, which means “joy.”
What she needed wasn’t more sights to dazzle the eye, it was more holy joy.
She began to realize that the depths of joy depended on the depths of her thanks.
The way to prepare for the next life is to be grateful in this one.
Ann Voskamp is the author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are