Kristi Canode and her husband Greg are thankful today. But almost six years ago, they went through an experience so heart-wrenching it’s difficult to imagine.
After five years of marriage, they were excited parents-to-be. Kristi’s pregnancy went smoothly. Until she was in the hospital, delivering baby Michael, in January 2008.
“He came out not breathing,” she told me. “He had severe heart defects.”
Michael suffered from a congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot, which affects 1in every 2,000 babies. He died the day he was born.
Doctors told the couple that if they tried again, there was a 10 percent chance the baby would have a similar problem.
After the crushing grief from Michael’s death, “it might as well have been 100 percent,” said Kristi, who’s a registered nurse. “We just thought there was no chance we would go through that again.”
But late that year, the couple found themselves pregnant again. That was a surprise, because they had tried for so long to get pregnant the first time. Their daughter Taylor, now 4, was born in August 2009. She was fine; “we were blessed,” Kristi said.
Early this year Kristi became pregnant again, and this time it didn’t go nearly so smoothly. At 12 weeks she had a blood test that indicated something was wrong. It showed a critically low level of a key protein.
The doctors told her they’d had never seen a level that low before. The test couldn’t be repeated because it was most accurate at 12 weeks.
It meant Kristi, 35, would probably suffer a miscarriage. If she didn’t, chances were high the baby could be born premature, and with one or more birth defects.
“It was horrible. We said, ‘Why us? Why then?’ There was no way God was going to make us go through having to bury another child,” she told me.”
So they prayed, and they weren’t alone. “We had people praying for us all over the United States — Arizona, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania. ”
There were hopeful signs as the pregnancy progressed. Kristi’s ultrasounds were normal; so were lab tests. She carried the baby to term.
Luke Gabriel Canode, whom Kirsti calls “our miracle child” arrived Oct 15, 2013, He was born healthy and big — 9 pounds, 5 ounces.
“We are so thankful for all the prayers, love and support we received this past year from our family and friends,” she told me.
The Canodes aren’t the only ones thankful today. Here are some more thanks from readers. Unlike the version in the newspaper, which was trimmed for space reasons, these have not been trimmed.
Shirley Paine, Pulaski County
I am most grateful for my family, friends, my husband’s job, our modest home on the mountain where I can look out my kitchen window and see “a piece of heaven” every day, my pets, and my health. However, I can truthfully say that I am also thankful for the illnesses, disappointments, broken dreams and job losses, including the one I lost because I was defending a co-worker who was being badly mistreated by a large corporation. Without them, I would never have the compassion for and the desire to help others in similar circumstances that I have today.
In 50 years I’ve gone from an idealistic high school graduate who sought to “live happily ever after” in a marriage that was doomed from day one to a senior citizen who realizes that, as the first sentence in The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck reads, “Life is difficult.” I’ve learned the difficult lessons that many of us are blessed to learn through our shortcomings, mistakes, and the sometimes ignorant, sometimes cruel, actions of a world that can be cold and uncaring. When we stumble, we get up, try it again, and hope this time the results are better.
I’ve also been blessed to meet strangers from all walks of life who have never experienced extreme hardship or loss, but reach out to help others because they are gifted with an innate sense of love and thanksgiving, and simply want to share it. These are people who know the truest meaning of the word, Thanksgiving, and seek to share it every day, not just the fourth Thursday in November.
Barbara C. Bailey, Salem
I will eternally be grateful for the outpouring of love my husband, daughter, son and son-in-law have received since we lost our dear Jill Bailey Chenet in a tragic accident in Buxton Beach on July 25, 2012.
The support of our extended family, friends and community has been our saving grace over the past year and a half. But we have also learned that until you have experienced such a deep loss you really don’t know the deep grief that hits you out of nowhere nor the blissful joy that comes from a shared story about your loved one or pictures you have never seen and will always treasure.
In giving thanks for all those who have literally held us up, we are also, as a family, so grateful to have been blessed with such a beautiful gift of life in Jill — she was beautiful inside and out. We have learned through our experience that there is always someone out there to whom we can reach out for understanding.
Perhaps in a small way we will still be able to honor the life we were given by being thankful for each moment, so we can pass along the same support and comfort we have been so blessed with. Happy Thanksgiving!
Marc Hirsch, Roanoke County
I am grateful for my wife. Besides the fact that she puts up with me, she is supportive, and has twice helped me through a medical emergency with which I was dealing. I do not handle blood and major injuries well, but she has managed to calm me down to help both people.
In the first instance, in 2006, we had moved to Roanoke and had been living here less than a year. I was heading over Twelve O’clock, and on the Salem side at about 6 a.m., I came upon an accident. A pickup had hit a bicyclist. The latter was in shock and in danger of suffocation.
I called Maria and she asked me for a description of what was going on and his condition, and walked me through my helping the guy to be comfortable (and alive) until the ambulance arrived. Had I allowed him to lay down, he would have died. The driver was in shock as well.
In the second case I came upon a motorcyclist who had hit a cow and was unconscious laying in the road. He was gurgling blood and even with a full face-shielded helmet, had suffered a head injury. Again, I called Maria and described what was going on and she told me what to do in case he stopped breathing (which he did). He was stable when the paramedics arrived.
I owe it to my wife that she was able to help people, through me. And calm me when I came upon these people who needed help. I haven’t any medical training, and without her, people would have been far worse off.
Denice Goldberg, Roanoke
What I am so thankful for this year just happened. My son, Jesse, who just graduated from UNC /Chapel Hill in January, signed up last week to take his MCAT exam in April. He wants to go to medical school to be an ER doctor.
What makes this event so different, and why I am so thankful, is that Jesse never went to high school. Never got a high school education. Never took an SAT. Severe anxieties kept him practically imprisoned in his bedroom for 3 years with little contact with the outside world and any ability to concentrate. Here is what he posted on his Facebook page recently:
“No high school, GED obtained, no SATs, A.S. degree obtained, B.A. obtained, and tomorrow I register for my MCAT. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of the happiest reflection days I’ve had in a long time, to see where I’ve come. For a kid who couldn’t leave the house for 3 years to get as far as this, regardless of if I bomb the MCAT and it takes me years to get into med school and hundreds of thousands in loans, I couldn’t be prouder of myself and I just had to put it in words somewhere. It was worth it.”
I am so thankful that he was able to overcome this disability and follow a dream he has had, but one that looked so bleak for so long. This Thanksgiving becomes very special and emotional, and my husband and I are so thankful for his accomplishment.
Mary Anna Page, Roanoke
I believe that everyone has difficulties in life and how you respond to them can make those difficulties easier or harder to bear. Those difficulties can make you a weaker or stronger person.
For that reason, I am most thankful for the simple things in life — the day to day necessities, my family, my friends, my church, a home, food ,clothing, the unconditional love of my dog, Kody, the ability to make choices.
I am thankful for rainbows –the promise of hope. I am thankful for sunrises — the promise of a new day. I am thankful for beautiful sunsets — the close of a day well lived and saying good night to all. I am thankful for God’s watchful eye and love.
Wyne Wilson Yuhas, Salem
Our most memorable Thanksgiving was November 27, 1998. Our grandson John D. “Trip” Hudson, III was born 3 months early. He weighed 1 lb.14 oz. and was 14 inches long.
Trip was in the hospital until the middle of March, 1999. When he got home, he was isolated so that he would not pick up any viruses. When he was 6 months old, his family moved back to Roanoke.
He blossomed after he got home and my wonderful daughter-in-law worked with him continuously. Fortunately, God has blessed us with a healthy young man that is almost 6 feet tall, 14 years old, and a freshman honor student at Hidden Valley High School. He is intelligent, healthy, considerate, and an all around great young man.
Geetu Sarkar, Roanoke County
This year I want to give thanks to myself for my excellent memory, which is a gift of God. Two months back I happened to meet one of childhood friends from India in Tanglewood mall, who came to U.S. to visit her son. We have not met each other for the last fifty years.
She was walking in the mall and I was in hurry, but when I saw her, my inner voice told me: she must be my fifth grade friend Manasi. Those days she was a beautiful girl, and had a distinctive black beauty-spot on her upper lip that made her very charming. My memory recollected her immediately.
She was accompanied by a young man, who I was sure was her son. Without any hesitation, I just approached her son and asked him if she is his mother and is her name Manasi. He was surprised and took me to his mother. It took her some time to recognize me, and I walked her through many of our childhood memories. Finally when she recognized me, we embraced each other and cried with joy.
Both of us were very happy to see each other after fifty years and cried a lot with happiness. She told me that she is visiting her son who was a software engineer and she will be in Roanoke till Thanksgiving.
My memory recollected her so quickly I will be really ungrateful if I don’t thank my excellent memory, which in turn is a gift of God.
After much soul searching, I reluctantly attended grief counseling meetings. It was there that I met Erlene, although I paid no attention to her.
Sometime later, the counselor suggested that I ask her to accompany me on a Parkway trip, but I could not remember which one she was!
After a number of dates and trips we fell in love, married, and she is now the 2nd “Love Of My Life.”
We are totally happy, and both thank God for arranging us to find each other.
Betty Anderson, Vinton:
This Thanksgiving, I’m so grateful that my granddaughter Brittany’s life was spared when she was hit by a car while on vacation in California, leaving her in critical condition.
In August, she, her fiancée and his dad were in a parking garage, waiting on an elevator. A woman driver didn’t stop at the ticket booth at the entrance, crashed through the gate, jumped the curb and ran them down.
Brittany was knocked into the air, flipped several times, before landing onto the concrete, crushing both legs and suffering a head wound. After six weeks she arrived home. Now, after two and a half months, she still hasn’t walked without leg braces.
My family’s names are Wendy, Pa, Porkchop, and my two crabs. I love them more than anything.
I am thankful for food because if I did not have food I would be starving. I am glad for food because without it, I would be skinny and sick.
I am thankful for these things. I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!
The earth would not be the same without parents or Thanksgiving.
Norma C. Johnson, Fincastle
I am thankful for my husband, Billy Johnson of 58 years whom we lost on May 2, 2013.
He was my caregiver for a period of 8 years while I battled cancer three times, survived a blood clot in my lung, two knee replacements, and a broken hip and spent three months in the rehab center with chronic blood clots. He visited me every day in the nursing home, accompanied me to all my chemo treatments and most of my radiation treatments.
For the last three years I was his caregiver as he suffered through heart and kidney disease, diabetics and dialysis for two-and-a-half years. We honored our marriage vows “in sickness and in health.”
We enjoyed a good marriage and I cherish all the wonderful memories.
I am thankful for food. I like it because I love food, especially sushi!
I am thankful for Cub Scouts because I have fun. I do hikes, camp outs, cooking and games! I am thankful for my cat, because I love him very much.
I am thankful for songs because I love to sing them! I am grateful for my school because I learn and have fun!
I am thankful for cows because I drink milk.
Christy Mackie, Blacksburg
I am grateful for my chiropractor, Dr. Stuart Rawnsley, who astounded me with the challenge to walk at least two to three hours PER DAY. After moving through the “that’s impossible” phase, I tried it.
Walking for 2 hours has changed my life! I can’t stop talking about all the benefits: increased strength, weight control, appreciation of shade and cool breezes, the sight of a Great Blue Heron, a herd of galloping deer, or bluebirds flirting with me.
Encounters with neighbors, fellow walkers, friendly (and not so friendly) dogs, donkeys, sheep, and goats have brought me much joy!
She is the image of what it means to be a servant to those around her. I’ve had several foster mom’s that I call mom. But Mary is the one person that I call Momma today. It isn’t because I stayed in her home; it’s because she loves me and continues to prove her love for me even now 35 years later.
You see she deserves to be called “Momma” because she was there for me when I had no one else. She believed in me even when I didn’t. I know I drove her crazy at times, but that didn’t stop her pursuit of me. So, I am most thankful for Mary Bane, this year. I love you Momma Bane!
Shirley Stinson Bishop Roanoke
The Thanksgiving Season brings back a memory of my 4th grade teacher at Forest Park Elementary School. Every fall, Virginia Scott required her students to memorize the 100th Psalm.
The day before Thanksgiving break, we got our coats from the cloak room and walked to Villa Heights Baptist Church. Rev. J. Landon Maddex greeted us as we sat in the church sanctuary.
Rev. Maddex spoke to us about the meaning of Thanksgiving. In unison, we repeated the 100th Psalm. This memory from 1948, is just one of many reasons that I will always be thankful for my teacher, Virginia Scott.
Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and mind through Christ Jesus” has give our Christian family peace even through the tragic death of our 28-year-old son by a drunk driver in 2008.
God lost His Son too!
As society crumbles and no longer wants to mention the name of God or His Son Jesus Christ, I am VERY thankful for the peace of God!
Carol Belanger, Williamsburg
I am so thankful we are not sending our boys to Viet Nam any more. My first husband was sent there three times. Waiting and wondering at home, with our daughter, in all the support my parents could offer was a nightmare second only to what my Marine was enduring.
I could be many times more thankful if only we would stop sending our boys and men to die in far away places.
Ronnie Edward Niday, Troutville Elementary
There are many things I am thankful for that I love to do on thanksgiving. I love to hunt turkey and deer. Then I go back home and eat with my family. On Thanksgiving, I ride bikes with my brothers and play games most of the day. I like to play with my cousin and my friends. When I go home, I call my friend to see if they want to come over or not.
Last year I went hunting and shot a 9 pointer and a turkey. I went home and baked it. This year, we are going to a new spot that we have tried. There are a lot of deer and turkey.
But I am most thankful of when I get to eat and see my family. We are going to our Grandma house this year to spend most of our day with her. Dad and I do most of the cooking while mom will lay back in her room. Thanksgiving is a thing that we do with our family. My family doesn’t live near us so most of the time, we will go and get them. They will stay a night and go back the next day. I am very thankful for school, friends, mom and dad.
L. Jeanie Baker, Blacksburg
A year ago Thanksgiving I had recovered from a week in the hospital and 5 1/2 weeks in rehab and was settling into a new home in a retirement village. My husband and children moved us here while I was in rehab on the advice of our family doctor that “she needs to get away from those stairs.”
My husband would give up his garden but found this new home to be a haven for bird watching. So the family packed and then unpacked boxes, moved furniture, and took time off from their own work to complete the move before I was released from rehab.
So, in the shower the other morning I began thinking about all the things I would be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Of course, my husband and family that made the choice to move us here, but also the little things, the handle bars in the shower, the walk across the hall from kitchen to laundry room (no stairs), walking from car to house (again, no stairs), the wonderful new neighbors . . . my renewed interest in exercising and playing cards, and the fact, that at 74, I am enjoying life, family and friends once again.
I love my dad, my mom and my brothers no matter how annoying they are.
I am thankful for the life I have.
I am also thankful for the food we are having at Thanksgiving.
Where we have Thanksgiving it’s a huge house. I might be exaggerating when I say this, but you know. I’m thankful for my pet dog named Boss.
I just can’t wait for Thanksgiving and turkey!