I never suspected that when I answered the phone, I would hear muffled groans and the deep rumble of passing traffic.

The week after Thanksgiving I thought I would be decorating my house with stockings, wreaths, and bells. I imagined that this week I would be picking out my Christmas tree and wrapping presents for friends and family. I thought that last week I would host my first holiday feast with my boyfriend and invite his family into our home for the start of the holiday season. That is, until I got a phone call around 6 p.m. last Tuesday evening.

It’s funny how your whole life can change in an instant. You get so caught up in the mundane of the day to day that you forget just how fragile life really is. I was cleaning the house, getting ready for the holidays, and making my Christmas shopping list when my whole world turned upside down. All it took was a phone call.

When I answered the call from Sam that night, I expected him to ask me if I needed anything from the store. I thought he would tell me he had stopped for gas on his way home from work and was running a few minutes late. I never suspected that when I answered the phone, I would hear muffled groans and the deep rumble of passing traffic.

Instantly, I knew what happened. When you love someone who rides a motorcycle, these are the calls you dread. This is the all-too-familiar phone call that makes your world stop turning. Everything stops dead in its tracks, as your worst nightmares come to life before your eyes.

Life both stands still and spirals out of control simultaneously. It’s a blur as I’m running around the house and suddenly in the car flying to the hospital. As every horrible possibility enters my mind and panic sets in, with every spastic beat of my heart all I can think is “thank you.”

Thank you, God, that Sam is alive. Thank you, random drivers on I-10, for calling to report the crash. Thank you, first responders, for getting to the scene much faster than I ever could. Thank you, paramedics, for getting him to the hospital. Thank you, because without you I might have lost my best friend.

This year I thought I would be thankful in other ways. I expected to celebrate my thankfulness for my job, my family, my friends, and some good food. Instead I am grateful for so much more. Although my tree will not be filled by presents topped with bows, I have the best gift of all.

Gratitude can really change your perspective on things. Before this, I was so hung up on making the holidays perfect that I was losing sight of what it’s all about. The presents don’t matter. The meals don’t matter. The decorations don’t matter. The only thing that does matter is gratitude for what you do have. This year, I am grateful that I still have Sam. I’m grateful for the physical therapy appointments, the doctor visits, the medical bills, the prescriptions, and all the things that go along with keeping Sam healthy.

These are things I never thought would mean so much to me. His very presence at home is something I took for granted. All those routine days and mundane moments have taken on a whole new meaning for me, and for that I am also grateful.

I’m grateful for gratitude, basically. I wake up every morning tired from busy days and restless nights but thankful for someone to share them with. As much of a disaster as this has all been, I'm grateful for every minute of it because all the stress of dealing with hospitals, insurance, and recovery means Sam is alive to have medical problems. Physical therapy means he still has a leg to feel pain. Followup appointments mean he was well enough to be discharged from the hospital.

Hug your loved ones this holiday season. Be thankful for their presence rather than their presents. Learn to say thank you for more than just stocking stuffers. It really can change your life. I have an entirely new outlook not only on the holidays, but life in general, and it all started with a phone call.

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