Do you know what I mean when I say this felt like a very different Thanksgiving?
Family members gone, marriages that didn’t make it, kids somewhere else, aging parents…
I know many who felt that somewhere the spirit of Thanksgiving had been lost.
In my family, it feels like we are grieving the living.
My mother in law always remembers to be grateful. But she has forgotten almost everything else. She mostly remembers family; but forgets to bathe, change her clothes, what turkey looks like on a plate. My father in law always remembers what there is not to be grateful for, but is forgetting so many other things.
“They are all here for our anniversary, right?” he said, Thursday, as the kids were serving plates to the precious people at the home.
“We are all here for you, Dad.”
But their anniversary was months ago, and this was the celebration of Thanksgiving. Familiar turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole…but just so different. The years of aging have been hard fought…denial, demands and ultimately a diagnosis that forced two full lives to be upended and downsized and moved to a place that could be safe. We tell our kids to be willing to risk, but we tell our parents we need to make them safe. How do we find grace in the midst of difficult situations?
Last Thanksgiving our friends were just getting used to hearing the words, “Cancer.” One short year later a healthy mother, now cancer-free, had only one desire this holiday: To Serve.
And so her kids, dressed in holiday colors, served along side mine, handing plates to the residents so that they could be fed.
Before this holiday came, our friends’ beautiful daughter had loved on these people. She wrote them cards that said in little-girl print, “God loves you, and I do too.”
Months later, while we were moving tables to make them “family style” and bringing in pumpkins to make things festive, I see it. A gentleman’s name card, and slipped in it–behind the place holder that tells him every time he is fed where he belongs–a note with pink writing. “Is this one of yours?” I asked her.
Yes, it is. Her love has blessed a stranger friend three times a day since she freely gave it.
Because of this Thanksgiving, although there are no leftovers in the fridge and the memories are gone for those we loved and served, I will remember to be Thankful for the love that came before…and for friends and serving and grace…and for all of you.