I think there’s a lot me of in Anderson Cooper. No, I have no delusions that CNN’s Anderson Cooper is remotely related to me. However, I just finished listening to Mr. Cooper’s podcast about coping with grief. Cooper began recording the podcast while cleaning out his mother’s New York apartment two years after her passing. During the session, he discussed reliving grief from losing his father, brother, and mother. 

In his mother’s last few weeks, Cooper recorded some of the conversations he had with his mother. “I was surprised how lonely I felt as the last surviving member of my immediate family,” Cooper said, “and I discovered that talking with others, who’d moved through grief and spoke the language of loss, was life-changing.” It was in that moment of self-reflection I found an uncommon bond.

After receiving the Ménière’s disease diagnosis, I have to admit; that I felt bound in an emotional fog, one that certifies you’re in deep do-do and one that was difficult to navigate. There was no immediate out. No cure. And undoubtedly, little hope for anything remotely possible to counteract the long-term possibilities. They were just feelings. And those feelings are what my mother and I discussed.

For the first time in several years, I was honest. “Mom, I have Ménière’s disease.” Then, after a brief pause, “There is a possibility that I will lose hearing in at least the left ear and eventually, possibly the right. Unfortunately, there’s no known cure. However, some medicines will help delay the process.” I also went on to explain what I learned in my research, that some (or most) hearing, if lost, might be restored via cochlear implants. Finally, after acknowledging there was nothing she could do to make my life better, our FaceTime call paused in silence.

When Cooper discussed the feelings of ‘loneliness’ and ‘isolation,’ I silently nodded. “Yes,” I mouthed to myself. “Yes.” The latest medical dart life threw impacted me more than the others. Sure, I was diagnosed with a tumor, then Parkinson’s, tremors, and a bunch of other stuff. But the Ménière’s sunk me into a deep depression during the remainder of last week. Like vertigo experienced several weeks prior, I cling to the journey’s loneliness. It threatened to swallow me. And for the first time in this multi-year struggle, I could not conceive a plan.

In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Cooper questioned how the late-night host learned to accept tragedy as a way of life. “You told an interviewer that you have learned to—in your words—‘love the thing that I most wish had not happened,’” Cooper began, holding back tears. “You went on to say, ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ Do you really believe that?”

“Yes,” Colbert replied, later clarifying the quote originated with Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien. “It’s a gift to exist, and with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that. I don’t want it to have happened. I want it not to have happened, but if you are grateful for your life—which I think is a positive thing to do, not everybody is, and I am not always, but it’s the most positive thing to do—then you have to be grateful for all of it. You can’t pick and choose what you’re grateful for.”

And Ian spite of everything, I remain grateful.