A year ago, we had Thanksgiving in the hospital. Followed by Christmas, and then New Year’s. It jokingly became known as the “Holiday Trifecta” between us and the team at UVA.
Many of you remember that we had Thanksgiving in the hospital at the University of Virginia because just a couple of weeks before, Patrick had had a liver/kidney transplant.
The week before that, I had lost my mother.
There’s no real describing the enormity of those two momentous life events, especially when they come at you with such lightning speed. Still, we had much to be thankful for last Thanksgiving. And small as our celebration was, it was, in fact, very much a celebration.
Fast forward to now, one year and five more hospitalizations later. We are home this time and most thankful for that. But we are also just plain grateful that there is a “we” and not just an “I” who are celebrating Thanksgiving this year. It might not have turned out this way.
Recently, though, as things seem to have become a bit more stable and less fraught on the health front, I’ve felt my thoughts turning more towards my mother. Because in life you must focus your priorities on the living, I never really was able to grieve my mom. Lately, however, I find myself suddenly gripped with her loss at unexpected moments. Those moments pass – and believe me they are as physical a moment as they are emotional – but I suspect the next few months may be kind of rocky. The beautiful thing, though, is that while I do miss her dearly, I can’t in all truth be sorry for her. She had lived a long (just shy of 94 years), happy life. She bore the loss of her husband of 60 years bravely for over 4 years. But she was ready to leave us.
I’m very, very lucky to have had her for so long and I count my blessings every day that I had two amazing parents.
So, getting back to Thanksgiving, I thought of this picture (above) and the most marvelous memories just came flooding back. Memories of the Thanksgivings of my childhood and youth. Every year, we went “next door” (we lived in the country, on a family farm) to our grandmother’s for a family get together and a feast of Dickensian proportions. It would be us (4), my grandmother (she was my dad’s mom – my grandfather died just before I was born), my Aunt Marnie, and a handful of delightful older cousins (elderly Cousin Mary and her daughters, the Fletcher sisters). Sometimes “Uncle” Rowland, another relative, would join us, too. It was a spirited and fascinating group. After we had feasted near to bursting from a groaning board of culinary delights, we would hoist ourselves up from the table for a postprandial walk down the lane so we would not collapse into a tryptophan stupor before our annual intensely competitive game of “Guggenheim” (you might call it Categories).
Anyway, this photo was taken in the early 1970s, actually I think it was probably in 1973, my senior year in college. That’s my mother on the left, my sister in the middle, and me on the right. We were just heading off for our Thanksgiving walk when our cousin, Mary Fletcher, snapped this.
Of all the characters we were blessed to have with us on those Thanksgivings so long ago, my sister and I are the only ones left. But the memories are so vivid that it’s impossible to be sad. Instead, I know just how lucky I am to have had them and the folks who peopled them in my life.
So today, Thanksgiving Day 2016, I’m especially grateful for my many blessings. I hope you are feeling thankful on this day, too.
I leave you with this lovely prayer:
God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:
We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.
We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.
We thank you for setting us in communities:
who nurture our becoming,
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.
We thank you for this day:
and one more day to love,
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.
For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving GodAmen