One of the first prayers little Jewish boys and girls often learn is Modeh Ani – a prayer said each morning to thank G-d for returning your soul to your body. As a child I recall being proud to have learned my first prayer. But, the idea of having your breath or soul returned to you is a very amorphous concept, wrapped in morbidity (what if your breath is not returned to you?); ironically, thankfully, nearly impossible for most children to truly appreciate.
By the time I was diagnosed with breast cancer I had long abandoned this daily prayer. But then came my double mastectomy and a longer and tougher-than-anticipated recovery. I woke up most mornings with a painful migraine and hot tears streaming down my face. Despite a positive prognosis and attitude, I was still struggling.
Thankfully, I eventually realized two things: 1) As tough as my situation was, I was alive and 2) articulating any measure of gratitude would be more self-serving than feeling sorry for myself. And so, instead of waking up to hot tears, I started saying Modeh Ani again. Whether in Hebrew or a simple “Thank you, Lord for giving me another day,” this prayer of my childhood now had real meaning, with gratitude for waking up a soul returned to my body, and the opportunity to live to fight another day.