Much to be Thankful For

By Vic Kohring, November 11, 2015

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever. 

~ Psalm 118:1

When I was young and our family gathered around the table to share Thanksgiving dinner, our tradition was to take turns expressing what each of us were thankful for. It was easy for me because, despite our relatively meager existence as a low-income family living a subsistence Alaskan lifestyle, we were a blessed family. We had each other, our friends, enjoyed good health and were a family of faith. My father would then offer a heartfelt prayer and proceed with carving the turkey and moose or caribou roast. I have fond memories of those get togethers from many years ago. 

With the Thanksgiving season upon us, I've been reflecting back on how blessed I continue to be and my reasons to be thankful. There are many. Some may question my enthusiasm given my legal experiences of recent years, and more significant, the 2013 loss of my dear father to Alzheimer's and the sudden passing of my nephew this summer from an accident, a wonderful young man who was as close to me as a son. 

To this day, I'm still in shock and find it difficult to fathom that both are gone. Their losses left gaping holes in my heart and were excruciating experiences from which I'll never fully recover and will bear until the day I depart this life. It was if part of me died along with them. I miss my two family members beyond description and at times admit I've had brief moments when I've questioned whether life is worth living without them. But I've instead chosen to forge ahead and dig down deep to find a way to rise above it all and find some good in the tragedies. It's what my loved ones would want.   

Most important, I take comfort knowing my dad and nephew are together with their Savior in Heaven. Both were Christians and strong in their faith as they professed their love for the Lord. So despite the fact that they're no longer on this earth, I feel blessed that they're rejoicing in a better place and that someday we'll reunite - hopefully sooner than later - as the separation is, and will always be painful. As I reflect back, the times we spent together were very special. Sometimes extraordinary. I praise God for the opportunity, but especially for the love we shared that made my life so much fuller and richer. They are precious memories I'll forever hold dear.  

My dad lived 91 years and had a good life. A humble, kind-hearted, hardworking man, he was the proud patriarch of our big family. Although my nephew left us in his twenties, what a remarkable life he experienced. He was a college graduate who studied engineering on a scholarship while also an accomplished athlete, had a great job and career, literally traveled the world, enjoyed a multitude of close friends and recently purchased a beautiful home.

An intelligent, handsome, charming young man, my nephew also shared his beloved grandfather's qualities of decency, humility, kindness, generosity and caring for others. He and his grandpa were two of the most selfless and thoughtful people I've ever been privileged to know in my lifetime. Both were amazingly as close to perfection as a human can be.

During my nephew's memorial service, a friend marveled about how he lived his life as a tiger, noting how "It's far better to live a short life as a tiger than a long one as a pussycat." How true. The pastor described him as the "crown jewell of the Kohring family," a well-deserved title, which brought me to tears. I'm so incredibly proud of my dad and nephew and it has been an absolute honor to have joined with them as family.

There are other things I'm thankful for as well. I still have a wonderful family including my mother, siblings and many nieces and nephews. As I've gotten older, several great nieces and nephews have been added. Everyone is special to me. Moreover, my health is holding steady, my life is back on track following my legal disaster and I have numerous caring friends.  What more could a person want 

As you sit down for dinner with family or friends this Thanksgiving, think of your blessings. No one is immune from tragedy and heartbreak in this life and at times we can get down on ourselves and feel as if the world is collapsing around us. It happened to me. But be positive and remind yourself of the good things. And let the peace of God rule in your heart, as Colossians 3:15 says.