It is Thanksgiving Eve, that day filled with trips to the grocery store, preliminary cooking, and trying to decide where everyone can nap once the eating is over. Since most everyone on Facebook will be posting Happy Thanksgiving wishes with the obligatory Thanksgiving Day picture on what is usually a link-to-the-blog day, I thought I’d post and link one day early. That’s about as spontaneous as I get, and I had to plan for that.
For some, Thursday will be a paid holiday filled with family and food. For others it will be a work day because Life and Death don’t take holidays. And for many it will be a day of reflection on things as they once were.
I am one of those who will reflect, not necessarily because I am prone to such (although age tends to change that), but because on this day seven years ago—November 23, 2009—my father died. My mother had done the same a little over eighteen months earlier so holiday meals and family gatherings have changed. They are still wonderful times together, but they are different, and sometimes the absence of my parents can be overwhelming.
I know I’m not the only one looking back while trying to move forward. There are mothers and fathers who on Thanksgiving Day will set one less plate at the table because there is one less child to come home. There are children learning to cook a turkey and make dressing (or stuffing, depending upon their preference) because Mama always did so they didn’t have to. Spouses will struggle to continue the family traditions when the family is no longer whole. So on this day, when there is so much to remind us of what we have lost, I want to encourage us to remember what we had.
For every loss there are memories. For every empty chair and every new recipe to be learned, there are those moments when life was as it should be and all was well with the universe. Can we look back on those times and find the joy we once knew instead of the sorrow we now feel? Yes. Yes, we can, but it’s hard . . . so terribly, terribly hard. And no matter how much we focus on the good, no matter how much we try to banish the grief from our hearts so we can enjoy the day and those around us, there will always be moments when it will return unannounced. Just know that for most of us, as time passes those moments will grow farther and farther apart.
To those who have not yet suffered that loss, please look around you and be grateful. Enjoy the clutter and the chaos of your children. Smile when your mom or dad calls you for the third time on any given day to tell you the same story or ask the same question. Be grateful when your child awakens you in the middle of the night, demanding to be fed, then refuses to go back to sleep when you have to be at work in just a few hours. When your spouse finds your last nerve and proceeds to get on it, take a deep breath and think of what your days would be like without them. For every instance in which we feel afflicted by life, there are those who would gladly trade places with us, who would never complain about the clutter or the stories or the lack of sleep, for in those moments we have something that once was theirs—something they lost and will never have again.
So as we prepare to celebrate a day of thanksgiving by stuffing ourselves as well as the turkey, may we truly be thankful; may we be filled with gratitude for those around us and for the annoyances and inconveniences with which they seem to gift us. Despite the aggravation and the irritation, someday those will be the moments we long for and cherish the most.