When we set about creating today’s Teacher's Corner episode, we knew we wanted to explore the idea of gratitude with several of our authors. What we could not have anticipated is how open and gracious they were.
Inside the episode
In our first segment, I speak with Lisa Lucas, author of Practicing Presence about what we experience physiologically when we express gratitude and how we can incorporate gratitude into our classroom and daily lives. (Timestamp: 1:12 - 20:29)
Next, Gravity Goldberg and Renee Houser, authors of the Teachers Toolkit for Independent Reading, discuss how gratitude is embedded in their teaching and its role within a growth mindset. (Timestamp: 20:30 - 29:44)
In our last two segments, Jeff Anderson and Whitney La Rocca, authors of Patterns of Power, each share how the changes forced by the pandemic provided unexpected, but necessary gifts. (Timestamp: 29:45 - end)
Read the transcript
Lisa Lucas: most of my research has been about gratitude. And I'll start with like, there's a real definition of it. And so the word gratitude comes from the Latin word gratia, which also means grace and graciousness.
Lisa Lucas: And so when I think of qualities of gratitude, I can't think of anything better than really nourishing grace. And so that's interesting that that's the root word. Okay? So that's the beginnings of gratitude.
Nate Butler: That's a great place to start. Well, I think we talk about thankfulness and gratitude as an emotion or as an expression, but there are physiological effects to practicing it.
Lisa Lucas: So there's research, which is really... This is like 15, 20 years ago. We didn't have all this research to back it up. And so now, there's enough research that shows that when we think positive thoughts, which elicit feelings of gratitude, what happens is that activates the left prefrontal cortex. So it activates, and they can now measure that. And then that floods our bodies with good-feeling hormones, the opposite of stressful hormones, which can then give us an upswing in mood. And right now, everyone's worried about their immune system. Well, what that thought of gratitude also does is it strengthens our immune system.
Lisa Lucas: So it has a physiological effect as well as just a warm, fuzzy feeling. The domain of physical health and gratitude is on the cutting edge. This is where we are now. And so, there's a new generation of research. Now, I want to quantify it saying it's young research, but it is measurable. It's objective. And they're pointing to some significant health outcomes. Things like gratitude correlates with... Well, just people that have an intentional practice of going about each day being grateful, they focus more on their wellbeing. Makes sense, doesn't it? When you think about it, if you're focused on what's good all around you, you're going to then be more thoughtful about how you live each day.
Lisa Lucas: And so they tend to exercise, they tend to sleep better. Their sleep is more efficient and they wake feeling more refreshed. They're less likely to smoke, abuse alcohol. So they take better care of themselves and their health. And then, so this isn't just an affective measure. They have found that they have healthier lipid panels, lower blood pressure, better kidney function. So there's the whole domain now of the physical health and which is really exciting, that we can measure those types of things now. I can go back into other outcomes from practicing gratitude.
Lisa Lucas: So, just emotional wellbeing. The latest research shows that most people who have a outlook of gratitude, it's 15 to 25% more joy and happiness. So that's pretty good. Better relationships, not only did people that practice gratitude get along better with others, they themselves feel more fulfilled, less lonely, and they connect easily with others. So now, we've got the relationships, we've got the physical, which is which huge, that really contributes to wellbeing. People that practice gratitude are less depressed. Depression is escalating. It's more prevalent than heart disease. So right now, if you would talk to any doctor or you would look at the statistics, most of the visits to the doctors are about people that are depressed.
Lisa Lucas: And so, there's a number of studies that have shown that gratitude can truly, truly help alleviate mild to moderate depression. So it's not a wonder drug. It's not going to... someone who is severely depressed and has a chemical imbalance. But if you're just not really feeling situational happiness, gratitude can help. And then what it also does is it helps alleviate future depressive episodes. So, it can help kind of curb the initial depression, but then it can help that, so that those depressive episodes don't happen so much.
Nate Butler: You mentioned the link between gratitude and the avoidance of unhealthy behaviors. To me, that suggests that if you believe that someone out there cares for you and demonstrates that you have value, you're more motivated to take good care of yourself.
Lisa Lucas: So, not only is it someone out there who cares for you, but I think people that are grateful, I always think of that Einstein quote, you either see everything as a miracle or nothing. In other words, and so if you have a gratitude-type mindset, you aren't looking for the big wins. You're not looking for being grateful for winning the lottery or going on a cruise. You're grateful for the small, small aspects of life.
Lisa Lucas: And so, if that's how you approach, if that's your lens and that's how you're going to approach each day, what's going to happen then is it's not just the people out there that care about, but you treasure life. And so you are so appreciative of this one beautiful life that we seem to have, so you're going to make the most of it. And you're going to look for the good, and when you find the good you're going to savor the good and hold onto it, that's the research from Rick Hanson. Rick Hanson does a lot with neuroplasticity, and he talks about taking in the good, and the reason that we need to really foster gratitude practice is the opposite of gratitude is that negativity bias.
Lisa Lucas: And I think you and I have talked about this before. In other words, the amygdala is constantly looking for what's wrong. And so what the research shows, to counteract that amygdala and that stress response and that constant looking for the glass half-empty and what's wrong, is that you not only need to look for more good, but when you find it, you need to savor it. Like that cup of coffee. This morning, I got up and I'm trying, because I'm moving, I'm trying to appreciate everything about this wonderful house and everything that it gave me for so many years.
Lisa Lucas: And so I went out on the front porch and I sat in the rocking chair. I sound like I'm 110. And I sat in the rocking chair with my coffee, and I just looked and thought there was so much good in the midst of every day. And so, it's a mindset of appreciating the little things.
Nate Butler: There’s a quote from Marcus Aurelius “in an expression of true gratitude, sadness is only conspicuous by its absence” and another from Ralph Waldo Emerson "Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude." That speak to the idea of recognizing that everything, including the small things, but also life’s challenges and setbacks contributed to where you are now, and the importance of being grateful for those experiences.
Lisa Lucas: So I teach presence, right? My book was Practicing Presence, and I'm all about appreciating the present moment, but let's be honest. Sometimes the present moment can be a little tough. And so if you have a lens of looking for the good, you start to recognize that even in the midst of difficulty, there is so much to be grateful for. And so in looking back, and sometimes you can't do this in the midst of it, but when you can be retrospective and take a glance back, it's in the most difficult times that you've learned the most and that you've grown the most.
Lisa Lucas: And perhaps in that vulnerability, you fostered relationships that you wouldn't have if you didn't need others. And so what you just said is so huge. In other words, we can't just focus like I said, on that cup of coffee and that sunshine in a rocking chair. If you have a mindset that everything is here to teach you something, what can you learn from this? And that it's also somehow intentional. In other words, rather than the "Why me?" and questioning it, it's there for a purpose. And rather than be angry or resist, because what we resist, the old phrase is what we resist persists, right? But what we resist is the non-acceptance of what is, that's when we struggle. Suffering is optional, in other words. What it is is if you can accept it, and look for the good. I mentioned to you that I called my daughter knowing I had this podcast.
Lisa Lucas: And I said, "Remind me what I've said about gratitude." She goes, "Just think of the Frankie story." And so Frankie's a young boy who my daughter had three years ago, I believe, in her first grade. She actually looped with him. And Chelsea is a first grade teacher and she read Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, classic first grade book. And if you're not familiar with it, basically this young boy has a rotten day. And after they read it, one of the questions my daughter asked is "How many of you have ever had a bad day?" And all of the other six-year-olds raised their hand right up, and Frankie did not. And my daughter said, "Frankie, have you ever had a bad day?" And he said, "Not yet." And she said "Never?"
Lisa Lucas: And he said, "No, no bad days." Now, here's what's significant. Frankie has brain cancer, and he's been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation and trials daily. So here's this boy in the midst of everyone else. And when I tell you, because I've met him now several times, she actually just went for a walk with him last week. Now he's on experimental treatments. I mean, he's got brain cancer. I've never encountered a child with more gratitude in my life.
Lisa Lucas: I mean, and it's not put on. And so my question I keep thinking is, is it an inherent trait? Is it something that can be cultivated? How do you get someone who has hardships that as adults, it's our worst fear, and yet, they in all sincerity say, "No bad days?" And the impact that young boy has had on so many, in other words, through his hardship, he has kindled something in so many.
Lisa Lucas: In other words, just talking to him, I can get choked up so easily. There's not a moment that I can be having what appears to be a difficult moment that I can't think of Frankie and have the ability to reframe anything. And so, the effect that those that have that ability have on us. And so, perhaps that's part of why they're here. They have such a significant impact on everyone around them. Do you ever notice that people that have at the toughest are often the most grateful? I thought I should start doing the real research, in other words, rather than just observational-type data. But I've just noticed that. Those that have been through the most struggles and no hardships, they tend to not sweat the small stuff. They tend to have the ability to focus on what matters most, and that goes along with gratitude.
Nate Butler: Let me ask you this: can gratitude be cultivated?
Lisa Lucas: So I do believe you can cultivate it. Because I laughingly say I was raised by two really strong pessimists. I think it's astounding that I'm able, and I'm not always there. It's a work, that's why I'm practicing. But I do think it can be cultivated. I think it's an awareness. And I think there has to be an intention. I used to do this activity with my students when I was in the classroom. I always did it around the holiday, and they would each have a... They would pick out of a hat during circle time another student's name that was in their class. And what they had to do was for that week, they had to spy on that student and write down everything good that they noticed about them.
Lisa Lucas: So all week long, they had to just notice the good. And then, Thursday, they would draft the first draft of a... It was primary grades, so it was the beginnings of a letter to them saying, "I noticed you did this, this, and this." So, focusing on all the good of that particular student. And I think what that does is, and practices like that, you've heard the... I mean, it's kind of cliche now. The gratitude letters and the gratitude journals, and the gratitude Janes, they all have impact because what they do is they make a very not tangible concept more tangible for younger students.
Lisa Lucas: But the research then shows that letter-writing that I started in say, first grade... I think it's Martin Seligman that does the positive psychology out of Penn. And he has done so much research that when students would write letters, and these were graduate students, and then actually deliver them and read them out loud to the recipients, it just had an unbelievable, measurable effect. Not just on the recipients, but on those that wrote those letters.
Nate Butler: Oh, those are some great strategies. Rather than looking at Thanksgiving as a single day of thanks, you can really look at it as maybe day one of making sure that you express gratitude to the people around you
Lisa Lucas: Absolutely. So I did a webinar yesterday, and I ended it with two things for the remainder of the day. No complaints, see if you can do that. But then, any opportunity you have to verbally express, by looking at someone in their eye and thanking them for something. So in other words, if the webinar is late afternoon, and so if your wife or your husband cooks dinner, not just, "Hey, thank you." But a look in the eye and a real sincerity about it can have a feel that isn't cursory. "Hey, thanks for doing that." In my book, I talked about how I begin and end every day with five things I'm grateful for. And that was easy to do in 2008 and 2009, in 2010. Okay, now we're in 2020, and so the deal is no repeats. Okay? So no repeats.
Lisa Lucas: So, pretty quickly you run out of my children, my family, my cat, my house, my... you know? But what I've noticed is that you start to really dig deep for all the little things that are right there, that if you weren't cultivating that lens of looking for it, you wouldn't consider "That's what I should be grateful for." And so, I love the no repeats and some days, and I'll be honest, I stopped doing it morning and night. Because I realized that I was doing it just in the morning, and then it was like, "Check, done with that." In other words, it turned into just a strategy that I had to do. And I realized if I did it only at night, all day long I can look for it.
Lisa Lucas: And that again is going to help counteract that negativity bias. So if you're going about your daily whatever it is that you're doing, knowing that I have to find at least five good things, well, it opens up a different perspective. Let's just bring this back to the research. All of this is helping our brains create new neural pathways. So this isn't just feel good. This isn't just a nice to know. It's an active practice that the neuroplasticity shows us that we're actually making inroads in that focusing on the good will become more of our dominant mindset.
Gravity Goldberg: I'm Gravity Goldberg.
Renee Houser: And I'm Renee Houser.
Gravity Goldberg: One of the things Renee that I know we've been thinking about always, but especially as Thanksgiving is coming is this idea of gratitude. And how does gratitude play a role in our lives as educators and as authors. And I've been thinking a lot about how so many things have changed. I mean, the fact that I'm sitting at a computer, looking at a screen all day. The fact that I can't see a family and friends and teachers face to face, but the relationships are still there. And yesterday I had a moment with some teachers that are still relatively new for me, that I got to support and the supervisor and I started the session with asking everyone to share something we were grateful for.
Gravity Goldberg: And when he went on to say, he's grateful for moments like this on the screen, we were on the screen at the time because they allow our relationships to continue to grow and develop. That led me to think about Amy Cuddy's research. Amy Cuddy is a researcher who said there are two main qualities for strong relationships. And those are a belief in competence in one another, and a sense of trustworthiness.
Gravity Goldberg: I know everything that we do as authors and educators has trust at the center of it, but there's this piece competence where that might not be the word that we tend to use, but that's really at the center of it too. So I thought we could talk a little bit today, Renee, about how we're grateful for these relationships we get to develop with teachers and students and how we focus on seeing the competence or maybe what we even say, seeing the gems and the strength in all of the folks that we get to study and learn with.
Renee Houser: It makes me think about... In our world, we do a lot of nerding out or thinking about the conferring piece and how I think the reason why you and I particularly gravitate towards conferring is because we have quiet moments to be present with kids side by side. Whether it's side by side on the screen or side by side in person. When we think about conferring it's not only super excited to think through our practice with students, but also think through our practice with fellow educators. And there's a whole lot of noise sometimes around conferring, which is good, because it matters. People are always interested or excited or have a lot of questions around conferring because I think it resonates as an important part of my practice. I want to honor this part of my practice.
Renee Houser: But really, if we could put all of that aside and say if there were like one magical key... Because there aren't, there are many, but the one magical key is sitting beside a reader, looking in their eyes and saying whether that's with actual words or whether that's with a smile or whether it's with a book that you offer them is, is I believe in you. You can. I absolutely believe that you can. And I also believe that I can.
Renee Houser: It's sitting next to them, having the confidence that I believe in myself, first and foremost as a human, I believe in myself as a reader, a writer, I believe in myself as a teacher, someone who can guide you. And I absolutely believe in you and together we can imagine all of those possibilities. And that is really such a gift. Not only am I grateful for that is my job. Not only do I love my job and I'm grateful for that, but I'm just incredibly grateful to just have a sliver of time in kid's life to say, "You know what? I'm going to support you in being the best version of you. And guess what? As a result of that, I get to be the best version of myself as well."
Gravity Goldberg: That's beautiful, Renee. I mean, I say that in a way... I think another way to say what you're saying is there's a choice. Every time we sit down next to somebody, what is our mindset and how are we going to frame this interaction or this experience. And knowing you for all the years and decades that I have, it is beautiful to watch somebody make a choice to sit next to and admire and see the good in people, the strengths in them. And then to say that, like you said, whether it's with our body language, our choices or our words, and I think about how much happier... That's why you still love what you do, how much happier we are as teachers when we get to sit and see the best in people.
Gravity Goldberg: And it doesn't mean that we ignore needs. It doesn't mean that we don't teach, of course. But when we approach people in that strength-based mode where we see all that's working and all that successful and all the possibility, we can't help but be bursting with gratitude that we get to witness that and build upon it. I hope that when teachers are having conferences or are talking to students, that's the mind frame they use because you can't really do it wrong then. You can't mess it up. I mean, there's always things we maybe would have said differently or done differently, but there's permission then to realize that we are basically sending the message, I see you, and I value you, and I believe in you just like you said, and I can't think of something I'm more grateful for as an educator than those moments.
Renee Houser: As I hear you saying that I'm grateful for that mindset, this idea that when I show up fully, being present and appreciating all that you are, it really can't go wrong. A roadblock that could kind of seep in there could be, but I don't know what to teach. What am I supposed to teach next? What's the thing I'm supposed to do? Or did I do it quote, unquote, air quote, right? You are doing it right. If one, you keep that student at the center of your decision making and all that they already bring to the table. And there's a lot of possibilities of how to leverage those strengths.
Renee Houser: And let's say, like you said, in reflection you thought, "Oh, that could have gone differently." But I'm also grateful for that you're not going to have one conference with a student, I'm grateful for all of these opportunities that together students and I can co-author their journey together. And this idea of I'm grateful for that was a learning moment. There's a learning moment and I can make a different decision next time, and that that's really kind of what it's all about.
Gravity Goldberg: And I'm thinking about one practical way to help teachers who are listening to this, how do I actually do this? We've named some of them. Making choices for how we want to show up and how our posture, so to speak with students. But another concrete way that I do this is I set a constraint for myself that I have to be able to name three strengths in the reader before I decide on something to teach. At least three. Sometimes I write those down in my notes. Sometimes I say them in my head. Sometimes I say them to the student, but it's I'm not ready to teach this child, this reader until I can find three things that are worth celebrating.
Gravity Goldberg:I think when we set some parameters like that, it's not really about three, but it's similar to why gratitude journals work. You have to practice at writing down three things you're grateful for every day. It literally is a way to change our framing of how our mindset is when we show up with students. Something like that might be helpful for those who believe in this, but are looking for a strategy.
Renee Houser: I would add one more, smile.
Gravity Goldberg: Great.
Renee Houser: Just smile. I know that sounds crazy. But even when you smile... One, there are mirror neurons in our brain that often if you smile... Gravity used to do this when we would be running, we would be in pain and Gravity, you remember? You would just say, "Smile." And then we would smile. And then we would see people in the park smile back at us. And we're like, "Oh, look, there's people smiling at us, even though I'm in pain, but it feels a little bit..." So there's this interesting mirror neuron, there's a reflux. But I also think that even your voice tone changes when you smile. That could even just be an interesting thing to research in your own practice. What happens when you smile?
Gravity Goldberg: Renee, there is a study that I read about in an embodied cognition book, a book called How The Body Knows The Mind. And one of the studies they did was for people who were suffering from depression. Instead of giving them traditional antidepressants, they give them shots of Botox so that their face literally couldn't frown. They had to have a smile on their face and they couldn't frown. And they found that that has similar, if not better results than taking traditional drugs like Prozac and antidepressant drugs. Because when you are in a smiling mode and you can't frown, it actually boosts and changes your mood. We actually have scientific research for that Renee, I don't know if I ever shared that with you before.
Renee Houser: I love when something that I think about is backed by research. I love that. No, I didn't know that study, so I love it.
Renee Houser: All right. To wrap up our time together, Gravity, here are three things I hear us saying, and then a whole lot of other ideas to percolate on and grow on. But one thing we can think about is our mindset. When we sit next to students and think about them with conferring. Naming their strengths, asset-based intentions. And then the last, smile.
When I think of gratitude this year, I think of a lot of things that don't, on their surface, look like good things, but as a result of those things, good changes were made in my life. For example, the pandemic is a horrible scourge on this Earth, but about a year ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and I've been going through treatment and doing exercise and all that stuff, but one thing that was really throwing me off was travel. And I travel a lot. I would do a workshop for six, seven hours and then get to the airport and get through security and all that mess, and since I make my schedule two or three years in advance, I didn't have any power to change that. I just, I felt like I had to keep going. I don't feel like I could cancel things.
And anyway, I didn't have to cancel things, come March. March 3rd was the last day that I worked in a school in a live way. And I started being able to, because of cancellations, have more time to take care of myself; the hours of day that I needed to spend doing certain speech exercises and physical exercises and PT exercises, and all that kind of stuff. And I was able to do them more.
And what I found is come about June, I was, my mood was different and I had the ability to write again. And I've been having a really hard time writing the middle school Patterns of Power. Sometimes I'd have to turn it over to my co-writer and say, "Here, type this," or I couldn't point and drag something because I just didn't have the small motor skills to let that happen.
But because I was forced by the pandemic to stop working in a way that I wouldn't have been able to, and yes, I'm still surviving and I'll be okay, but things are different and I have to make different choices in my life.
But getting back my health, getting back the power to type. I can type now. I just remember one day I was just typing and I was like... Thoughts were coming in. I was just able to type them, and I was amazed because I wasn't able to do that for a while. And my mood changed and a lot of my symptoms started to reverse and there were some... I still had some work because, later, after several months, starting in June. I had one in July. I had one in August. I had two and those were so close in a row. I actually got thrown off just by doing two in a row, and I was doing all this with travel before. And these were all just on the computer doing Zoom. What a gift that's been. I said I would never ever do it, and then here I am doing it.
And it's helping me to be able to survive and connect with teachers and such in ways that I just didn't think possible. And so, I'm grateful not for what the pandemic has done to people in this world. I'm very sad about that and I acknowledge my sadness for all the people and destruction that it's done in this world, and yet I was unable in my current state of mind, able to cancel things and they just got canceled for me and I got better. And even though it's a progressive disease, I am better. And it's because I was forced to cancel a lot of things but that's what it ended up doing for me.
So, I acknowledge it's a horrible thing. It's just for my particular situation, it allowed for me to blossom. It allowed for me to find my health again, to find my mind, to find my typing fingers, to find my ability to not shake, to find my ability to talk again.
It was even hard to talk. So, here we go. That's what I'm grateful for in 2020. I'm grateful that we made it. I feel gratitude for all the people that have made this life possible, and I get to enjoy and meet with teachers and share with teachers in my books. What a great life this is to live, and I'm probably more grateful now than I ever was. I'm more healthy now than I have been in years and it's all because something I was unable to do for myself, the universe just did to me, and it ended up working out well for me. Thank you for listening.
Whitney La Rocca: Anyone that knows me, knows that I am one who tries to look at everything in a positive light, looking for the good in people, in situations, in events. I try, it's not always easy, but I try. I believe in celebrations, little celebrations, like finding something each day to celebrate. And that's how I live my life, finding something each day to celebrate. And through celebration, I find gratitude. So today, I'd like to tell you about my golden retriever, Sam, and time. Yes, time. So, you may or may not know this about me, but I'm a runner. I love to run. This is my me time. Sometimes I think, and revise and debate my thoughts. But most of the time, I just let that music carry me. And I sing, and even I dance sometimes. In fact, I used to run full marathons until I realized that half marathons were definitely a better fit for me.
Whitney La Rocca: And, I still try to run a couple of half marathons a year. So, I want to take you back to 2006, when I adopted Sam from a friend who was not able to keep him. He was nine months old. And if you know anything about puppies, like golden retrievers, they need a lot of exercise. So, my friend felt that I would be a good fit for him. And yeah, she was right. Sam became my favorite running partner. We ran everywhere together. He would have become my best friend anyway, as dogs always do. But, the running we did together provided an even deeper bond between us. It's like we spoke to each other. Maybe, I didn't always know what he was thinking, but I like to think I did. Over time, he of course grew older, and our runs turned to walks around the neighborhood, to walks to the end of the street, and eventually to hobbles to the mailbox each morning. He could barely walk, but he still expected that time with me on the leash every day. Time.
Whitney La Rocca: I'm so thankful for the time I got to spend with him in this way. At the age of 15, Sam's legs that carried him on our runs and walks, just no longer worked for him. And, I knew the time had come to say goodbye. So, this week Sam was surrounded by those who loved him most. As my husband, my daughter and I held him and hugged him, shared our favorite stories with him and cried as we watched him leave us here on earth. And sad as this moment was in my life, I'm able to reflect on the gratitude I have. First, I'm thankful to have had that time of as many years with Sam as I did. He was such a mischievous puppy and younger dog. I clearly remember the time he showed up at the back door with one of our fence pickets in his mouth, and even tried to bring it inside.
Whitney La Rocca: I still, to this day, do not know how he got ahold of that picket. And the time when Emery was born, he stayed near her. Definitely her gentle giant, making sure she was safe. But you know what? Even more so, I'm thankful for the time that COVID-19 has provided me to be home, and the time to spend with Sam. And, the time for Emery, nine years old, to spend with him too. During the school day, she sits on one side of the counter with her computer and school materials, and I sit on the other side with my computer and writing materials, working on my new book. And, Sam has slept on the floor between us. This time has not only provided us with a chance to spend every last minute with our loving pet. But, when it came time to talk about Sam leaving us, Emery was able to have a better understanding of why. Because, she has seen the decline daily throughout the past few months.
Whitney La Rocca: A few days ago, Emery's amazing teacher started the day off with a Bruno Mars song, Count On Me. You can count on me like one, two, three, I'll be there. I'm terrible singer, but you know. As I listened to the song and watched Emery sing along and dance to it, I thought of Sam. And, this time that we've had together as a family, as friends and how much closer we've become through it all. And, my husband who leaves for work every day comes home to a family that counts on each other. COVID created time for us to be together, for us to love together, for us to grieve together, and for us to remember together and for us to laugh together. And it provided time, without the hustle and bustle of our normal lives for Sam to have us, the people he loved unconditionally, no matter what, fully in his life for the last nine months of it. Time for us to return the love and devotion as best friends, family. And for this, I am most grateful.