At year end, I’ll bet I’m not the only person taking inventory. Of life. Of things experienced and things to come. I must admit that so far life has been a great journey. Sure, there have been ups and downs, but honestly my cup overflows. In considering life to date, I’d like to tell you about a few things I’m grateful for and end with several things I hope may still come to pass.

My first bit of luck is having had a triune sort of family: an origin family, an extended family, and a family of my own. Mom and Dad started their family at age 19 with me; by age 25, there were six of us – three each. Fortunately, we six remain all for one and one for all. Mom and Dad’s families were friendly with each other so our extended families were often together for major holidays and blow-out summer picnics, baseball and swimming out at our farm. I married and had my own family in a son and daughter. Years later I re-married and received instant gifts of another daughter and son.

I’m grateful for growing up on a small farm. We grew and preserved all our food from vegetable gardens, orchards, berry bushes, and livestock. All organic. This was before the world knew how to spell organic. Observing the farm’s cycle of life was useful in that it made me pragmatic about beginnings and endings, rest and hard work, and so many other things that can only be understood by living close to the land, observing its natural order, and sometimes its fierce unforgiving nature.

Our town’s small school was forced to consolidate with the next-door town’s small school, our rivals, during my eighth grade. It was good fortune because our new school magically attracted top-notch teachers in every core subject. They also offered us unusual classes such as Shakespeare, Latin and music theory. That small, unlikely rural school produced exceptionally strong graduates. We were lucky.

Life has brought other surprises and joys. I watched from the bleachers as my daughter walked through the KU campanile and received her degree. I stood for each of five years at the airport eagerly awaiting my son’s safe return from deployments in the Middle East. I’ve experienced speechless awe at meeting newborn grandsons for the first time. I witnessed the oncologist tell my husband his cancer was cured. Each new day I am grateful for my job and the privilege of working at the hospital. I am thankful for our incredible staff who protect and defend our patients around the clock.

While life gives us abundant happiness, there’s sometimes sadness to withstand. Two years ago it was painful when our father died. On another day I tried in vain to comfort my inconsolable daughter for the loss of their unborn first child. And another day I tried to comfort my son who had just learned his toddler son had Fragile X Syndrome. All our lives changed in that moment. And just last week, I quietly stood next to my mother’s bedside as she peacefully pierced the eternal veil. It was just Mom and I. She was there for my first breath and I was there for her last. I’ll miss her.

And what will come in future days? Here are just a few things I hope life brings in 2019 and beyond. Visit my children, brothers and sisters. Attend a Cleveland Indians home game, eat a hot dog slathered in Bertman’s Original Ballpark Mustard, and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the top of my lungs. Take a tour on Maid of the Mist again. Say the right words at just the right time. Make a meaningful difference in someone else’s life. Try to do that every day. Learn something new. Cherish friends and make new ones. Live gratefully. Enjoy family love at every chance. What could be better?

— Val Gleason is the president and CEO of Newton Medical Center.