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When you’re down on your luck, you gotta do it,” –
Andrew W.K.’s feel-good song Got to Do It
 
After my wife found she had cancer a couple years ago, Thanksgiving took a different meaning for me.  I felt guilty that it took her illness for me to appreciate the holiday for what it is, but I do now take the time to remind myself and my kids about how thankful we should be at this time of year for what we have rather than next month when people start wishing for what they don’t have.  Tonight I sat on my brother’s couch after dinner, half napping as the tryptophan kicked in.  Fighting the lure of a nap, I picked up the recent Sports Illustrated and started to read an article about Jill Costello, a local girl from San Francisco with a big heart who graduated from the University of California at Berkeley this past Spring and as the coxswain for the women’s rowing team, led them to second place in the National Championships.

Jill Costello - former Cal rowing star

I had read briefly about Jill back in May in the local newspaper after I heard about her through the UCSF Medical Cancer newsletter that my wife gets. Jill had been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer although she did not smoke.

Although I hadn’t kept up with her story, as I read through the article I felt myself tearing up.  I knew what was coming.  I looked over at my wife smiling and laughing with my family and felt truly blessed.

Thanksgiving is truly THE family holiday of the year.  It isn’t long enough for most people to travel far  away.  It isn’t about presents or religion.  It is about celebrating your place and those around you and being thankful  for what you have.  Sometimes hearing stories about the loss of others who really are special people reminds me of this.

I want to give a special thanks to my friend Donald Wilhelm who we lost this year.  A good guy who inspired many and left us too soon.  In the article in Sports Illustrated: The Courage of Jill Costello, we read a great story about another inspiring person who can teach us to appreciate what we have today.  Although the article did not mention it, Jill lost her battle after graduation, but her strength inspired many to give more than you receive.

As her coach so succinctly put it at Jill’s funeral, “There are givers and there are takers, and you want to be more giver than taker. She never complained. She gave far more than she ever took. She was an inspiration to all of us. I hope when we face something as daunting as this, we can show some of the courage that she showed.”

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