4: The Blessing Bowl

4: The Blessing Bowl

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

The Blessing Bowl

For today and its blessings,
I owe the world an attitude of gratitude.


My daughter’s first birthday. I was thrilled that we were celebrating a year of her life but saddened at how hard this year had been. We had spent sixty-one days in the hospital, battled seizures and infections, two Flight for Life helicopter rides, numerous 911 calls and late-night trips in the ambulance. My daughter Samantha was a sick little girl and we were still searching for a diagnosis. Her first year had been tumultuous at best.

To honor Samantha’s first year, I had asked people to bring a trinket, a stone, a poem, something that brought peace or felt good to them—their blessings for her. I found a simple bowl given to me by my great-grandmother; a bowl for her blessings … her blessing bowl.

I found my contribution to the bowl in my garden. Many times I have set my fragile daughter on the soft dirt hoping something might soak up. Grow, thrive, baby girl; take an example from the zucchinis.

I snipped a bloom from the lily I planted the summer my husband and I were married. The bloom was a buttery yellow with three soft petals; Samantha, my husband and myself. I held a bit of the hearty earth in my hand to form a hard clump and added it to the bowl. My offerings were simple but they represented growth, hope, and my little family; nothing could be more precious.

Samantha woke up on her own at precisely 4:00, when the party was going to start. She’s on so many anti-seizure meds that fully waking her up can take about an hour. Yet today she was lucid and playing in her crib; ready to go for her party. I put her in a blue dress with yellow daisies. I had been saving that dress. I was waiting for her to be big enough, waiting for that first year. The blue brought out her red hair. I placed her tiny tortoise-shell glasses on her nose and laughed to myself. She was absolutely the most precious thing on earth.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins filed in and kissed Samantha. Wine bottles were uncorked; hummus and brie were laid out on the table. The mood was festive as everyone toasted to Samantha’s health.

As the evening progressed and the dinner plates were cleared away, it was time for our blessing bowl “ceremony.” Samantha was still awake, babbling to her grandma and seizure-free. I felt an enormous weight lift off my shoulders.

I brought out my great-grandmother’s bowl and set it in front of our family, studying the faces in front of me. I thought of what a long haul it’s been for everyone—the sleepless nights, the worried phone calls, the private tears cried away from the hospital, all for our daughter. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

I cleared my throat and thanked my family for being there. I reached into the bowl and pulled out my blessings for Samantha—the earth and our flower.

I passed the bowl onto my grandmother, Samantha’s great-grandmother. She pulled out a silver bell in the shape of an angel, “because Samantha is our angel.” When my talkative grandma gets emotional, she is a lady of little words. She passed the bowl onto one of Samantha’s grandmas.

She pulled out a perfect sand dollar she found on a California beach. “I chose a sand dollar because it comes from the ocean. The ocean is a beautiful, constant, volatile source of life. The surface can be calm or stormy but we never really see what is going on below. And there is a whole different world below. This reminds me of Samantha; we don’t really know what’s going on underneath the surface but there is a beautiful world full of life.”

My aunt pulled out a small silver heart. “I have carried this heart with me for twenty years and it has brought me good luck all of these years. Samantha, I now hand it onto you.”

She passed the bowl to my sister-in-law who presented a prayer for health and longevity from a Buddhist temple in Hong Kong.

My mother had also chosen shells. The first was a perfect brown and white spiral I had found years ago during a family vacation in Florida. The second was from Tahiti, another beautiful, smooth shell, chosen thousands of miles away years before Samantha was even born.

My dad was next. He had a small stuffed dog dressed in a karate uniform. When you pressed the dog’s stomach it yelled out “HY YA!” It reminded him of how Samantha continues to fight.

The last trinket in the bowl was a jade necklace from Hong Kong. My sister-in-law is from China and went home for a visit in May. Her mother gave her the necklace to give to Samantha for good luck. Thirty-four years ago, her son wore the necklace for good health and safety during his babyhood. The span of people loving and praying for Samantha had traveled thousands of miles.

I lit her single candle, overwhelmed that this beautiful little girl was a part of my life, and that she had fought so hard to stay a part of our lives.

Samantha’s dad helped her blow out the candle. We fed her frosting and pieces of mushy cake which she smashed between her fingers and toes.

The night came to an end. I finally got my rowdy daughter to sleep. I wandered through the house remembering the night. I took the lily out of the bowl and placed it in our big family bible to be pressed for safe keeping. The bible belonged to my grandfather, who passed away over a decade ago. As I thumbed through the pages, I found a red rose, perfectly pressed between the passages. I don’t know the origin, but I put it in the bowl. It was my grandfather’s wish, his blessing for Samantha.

We have asked so much from our families, friends, and people we don’t know. They have spent countless hours in the hospital, brought meals, coffees, contacted other family members, held and loved Samantha, prayed, sent jade pendants from Hong Kong. How do you give that back?

Gratitude, I thought. I am grateful for my daughter’s pink cheeks, for every breath she takes, for a seizure-free birthday. I am grateful for family and friends who would give their silver heart for the blessing bowl.

Someday I will repay the world for their acts of kindness to our family. I will make meals for someone else. I will send their family good wishes for good health and visit the hospital with coffee and fresh brownies. Right now I can only reflect on the joy of the night and be grateful.

~Heather Simms Schichtel

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