As we do every year at Thanksgiving, our blog is one day earlier than usual, just so we can officially wish you a Happy Thanksgiving this Thursday.
You’ve probably seen it, unless you don’t have cable or satellite TV. Then, as my daughter has to constantly remind me, you miss the commercials. Which I don’t suppose is always a bad thing . . .
It opens with an obviously distraught older gentleman, seated alone in the shadows of a well-loved room lit only by the lamps on the end tables. The voice over is his daughter, asking “Dad, are you sure you’re up to host?” He struggles to maintain his composure then breaths deeply and looks up at the ceiling, and in the background you hear his reply, “Yeah. We wanna keep it the way it always was, right?” And with that the snippets begin . . . he’s unfolding a white sheet that he carefully pins to the wall . . . he’s in the kitchen, wearing a festive Christmas apron, frustrated because his hand mixer isn’t working . . . he’s critically sampling the first batch of whatever to see if it tastes as it should . . . he’s unpacking the new throw pillow with the dog’s picture on it . . . and plugging in the tree. The light that glows from its ornament-filled branches illuminates his face to reveal a look of profound sadness . . . sadness that slowly gives way to the slightest hint of a smile. Then it cuts to the family gathering with everyone seated in the room where it began, now decked out with all things Christmas. And as his daughter and newest grandchild nestle in beside him and the home movies begin, you see him dancing in the kitchen with his wife, and he says to his little one, “That’s your grandma. She was the best at the holidays.” And if you’re paying close attention, you notice her festive Christmas apron.
Then you understand.
Granted, it’s a commercial, a subtle reminder that you can get stuff like Kitchenaid mixers and customized pillows from Wayfair while simultaneously yanking at your heartstrings. But the moments their marketing agency wove together are moments that play out in homes all across the world during the holidays. Someone is missing—and someone else is trying to cope with their absence.
Maybe that coping looks like his does. We honor the traditions because those bring comfort and a closeness to the person we’ve lost. Or perhaps we abandon the traditions in order to create new ones—ones that aren’t as painful because they aren’t wrapped around memories.
In this season of thanksgiving, I have watched that commercial time and again, and I have come to realize it’s telling me a great deal more than to buy stuff from Wayfair. For me, it’s a reminder to be thankful . . . thankful for the traditions that bind generation to generation, and the people who honor them. Thankful for memories, no matter how painful, that keep our loved ones alive long after they leave us. And, as much as I occasionally detest it, thankful for the technology that allows us to continue reliving those memories through sights and sounds that would otherwise be lost. But above all, I am reminded to be thankful for those people . . . past, present, and future . . . without whom the memories would not exist.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.