How many stories can one write about the Thanksgiving holiday? We all know we need to be thankful for what we have and share our blessings with others who have little. Whether we follow through on what we know to be true is up to each of us. Because most of us, if we are being honest, are not always full of gratitude and charity. Being human is complicated and fraught with transgressions and selfish behavior.
An abundance of grief and loss has spilled over the earth these last two years. Our society has endured so much. Some have not felt the sting of death or disease as others have, but the loss of normalcy in our lives is still sad and frustrating for nearly everyone.
As the holiday season approaches with a lingering feeling of uncertainty still looming, let us seek our comfort. Perhaps we should pause and not only be thankful for what we have but also be appreciative of what we had.
Recently I returned to the place in the Tennessee mountains where I was born. Saturday was spent promoting my new book at a book signing in the old train depot that is now a history museum. Seeing friends and relatives and talking about past times is comforting and easy for me, and I relish those who knew my family from long ago.
However, on Sunday, I woke with a feeling of sadness and melancholy. I deduced my fatigue was to blame. When the morning coffee didn’t seem to perk me out of my malaise, I decided to go for a drive. I went to the cemetery where my family eternally rest and walked among the tombstones as I approached my parents’ graves.
My mother and father’s headstone has a small ledge large enough to hold a plant on each side. I sat on the one nearest my mother and rested my back against the marble. I looked around at the names that reminded me of happy holiday times filled with kinfolks and storytelling.
The sun beamed brightly in a cloudless blue sky. It warmed my face as I gazed upward to heaven and stung my eyes wet with tears. Looking at all those I had lost began to cast me further into unhappiness.
I tried to pray, but the silence was only interrupted by a rooster’s crow and the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze. Then, as if there was magic in the mountain air, I suddenly felt my mother’s comfort. Her arms encircled me as if I were a child who had scraped my knee, and she kissed the pain away. The tears began to dry, and as I looked around at the graves of many family members, I no longer felt loss — but rather a sense of joy that these folks once lived as part of my world.
How blessed am I for what I had. How fortunate I was to have parents who embraced and protected me. How grateful I am for the grandmother and grandfather who taught me so much and showered us all with unadulterated love. I was blessed with a wonderful brother, defender, and partner in shenanigans who now waits for me in heaven.
A bit later, I waved goodbye to all those whose voices I only hear in my heart. Pep was back in my step as I walked toward the car, and I realized my mother’s comfort returned my joy. And my gratitude for such an experience was overwhelming.
We can be thankful for all the blessings we have today, but also be grateful for all the people who have walked with us, loved us, held our hands, and shared our world. Become joyful that God blessed you with each and every one.
Yes, we have mourned the loss of normalcy, the loss of friends and family, and suffered the slings and arrows of selfish behavior. We have endured illness, violence, and hardships, but we can rise above it all by just appreciating the folks who share our life journey and those who shaped our lives.
This Thanksgiving, as you gather around your tables, look at the faces you can still see and be grateful. Be thankful for the teenager who is being a teen. Comfort the toddler who screams through dinner, and the grandpa who can’t hear the scream. Be grateful for the spouse who kept you up with snoring and the child who keeps you in worry. And, above all else, appreciate the God who placed them at your table.
Fill your plates with happiness and Thanksgiving and take a moment to feel the arms of angels as they bring you peace.