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Why This Thanksgiving is Especially Meaningful

After a tough year for my family, we know how much we have to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving is a time when we all express our gratitude for what we’ve been blessed with. My family is no exception; we always know we have so much to be thankful for. But after a challenging 2018, we’re particularly aware of what God has done for us.

Early in the year, my younger brother Matt began losing weight rapidly. At first, he chalked it up to his efforts to only drink water, but we saw that he was dropping pounds way too quickly. After the G-Day Game — UGA’s annual spring football scrimmage — we went to Waffle House for dinner, and as I sat next across from Matt, I realized he didn’t look well at all. He looked old to me — he’s seven years younger than I am — and his color wasn’t right. He had no energy, and all of us noticed it.

The next morning, Matt and his wife Kelly didn’t go to church because he didn’t feel well. The rest of us encouraged him to go to the doctor, but he put it off, saying he had an appointment for that coming Thursday. The next morning, he was worse, so Kelly took off work and took him to the doctor. His doctors sent him directly to the ER.

Matt’s blood pressure was though the roof, higher than that of a stroke victim. His kidneys had failed. To this day, the doctors don’t know if blood pressure caused the kidneys to fail or vice versa. We’ll probably never know. After five days in the hospital and tons of waiting and prayers, Matt went home, and a new journey began.

Matt had to undergo dialysis three days a week, which affected his work schedule. Fortunately, his boss has been wonderfully accommodating. He had to radically alter his diet, and for an extended family who cooks and eats a lot together, that meant the rest of us had to make some changes too. Endless doctor visits and new routines became the order of the day.

In the midst of all this, my 13-year-old niece’s best friend faced a cancer diagnosis, so we rallied around that family in their struggles too. She is battling cancer with grace and an amazing attitude.

Eventually, Matt began home dialysis, which meant storing boxes of fluid for use in the procedure — so many of them that he and Kelly had to store some of it at my house and my parent’s house. Finally, his doctor determined that a transplant was the best option.

My sister Ashley bravely faced test after test to determine whether she was a match for transplant. Doctors had ruled me out because of my past history with kidney stones. Once Ashley had cleared all the hurdles, the doctors set a date for transplant: October 12.

That day came and went, and both operations went even more smoothly than the doctors imagined. Within a couple of days, Matt and Ashley were both home from the hospital. The last six weeks of recovery have been remarkable, and Matt will start back to work on Monday.

This Thanksgiving, as we sit down together for lunch, we will be especially aware of our blessings from throughout the year. God is good, and He has sustained us through a challenging year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, from my family to yours. May gratitude permeate your life every day of the year.

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