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Opinion: Remember to practice gratitude this holiday season

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Mikaela Hall

Mikaela Hall is a staff columnist for The Daily.

My first memories were of my dad bumping "Late Registration" by Kanye West in our green Expedition and me singing along to Roses: “To get there, we run, we fly, we drive/'Cause with my family we know we know where home is/And so instead of sendin' flowers, we the roses.”

I always said these words, hoping I would never have to put them into practice, but didn’t know what they actually meant until this semester. The day before Halloween, my little brother, who lives in my hometown, was hit and dragged by a car for more than 300 feet while he was walking home from school. When my mom called, I dropped everything I was doing. Nothing in Norman was important anymore, and I hurriedly packed my bags as tears ran down my cheeks.

My family arranged for me to hop on a plane hours later, and I ran to the hospital. I had never been so grateful to be back home — to be around my bustling family. As I sat in the hospital, helpless, and as my brother lay there all bandaged and broken, also helpless, we all didn’t know what to do.

I stayed night after night with him in the hospital, getting him water and blankets — anything that would make him feel some sort of happiness. I tried to be strong but couldn’t help crying a bit when I told him I wish I could take his pain. He looked at me, his bandages creating a mask where two bloodshot, yet still sparkling, blue eyes teared up, too. “This sucks, but I’d never let you take this for me,” he said.

Jaedn, my little brother, has suffered many broken ribs, a fractured pelvis and his skull being filed down, yet he chooses to turn a new leaf every day.

I’ve never been so appreciative to be a “rose,” something that blooms and brings joy to those in hard times, something that symbolizes love and the hardships of life in the thorns that come with the beautiful experiences of the petals. I was able to be there for him, just like I mouthed in that green Expedition a million times.

Where do we go from here? I guess step one is to be thankful for what you have because, as cliché as it sounds, it’s never appreciated until it’s gone. I always thought of my little brother as a kid who tried to get me in trouble, but every time I look at him now, I only see strength. Over a month into his long hospital stay, he faces every day, every dressing change and every surgery with unyielding bravery.

What happened to my brother has completely changed how I think of my life. I am so privileged. I go to an amazing school. I have wonderful people all around me that care about me. I have a great job, and most of all, I am healthy and happy.

I’ve never thought that I was lucky to be healthy; in fact, I always just thought that’s how it was supposed to be, but now I realize that life is so precious. I was foolish for taking it for granted.

The holidays are a time for us all to celebrate the most important pieces in our puzzles of life. As I go home next week, I will get to see mine again, and nothing compares to the feeling of seeing my family waiting for me at baggage claim. I know this time of year can be stressful for some people, but treasure your family — even your helicopter mom or annoying siblings — because you never know how much time you have left with them. The time may never be “right” to mend relationships, so why wait?

Enjoy the present opening or decorating the tree.

Enjoy your mom or dad’s cooking.

Enjoy someone else’s company and put any selfish desires aside this holiday because some things are bigger than yourself.

This holiday season, please hug your loved ones a little tighter for me, and have a blessed winter break.

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