I gladly admit that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
That does not negate the fact that Christmas is designated as the date for the birth of Jesus, and Easter is the day I celebrate His resurrection. But those holidays have morphed into something different, something other than the sacredness of the original. Thanksgiving, however, still calls us to give thanks, to gather with our family and friends, to enjoy the bounty of a God who gives good gifts.
As the day approaches, I ponder how we will celebrate this year. Our menu remains relatively the same, each of us cooking our special recipes, but there will be differences in us. Because families change.
When I was young I celebrated with my parents and extended family. Me being an only child and my mother and aunt being sisters/best friends, the family units combined to make one big happy one. As my cousins and I became adults and added spouses and children to the mix, place settings were added and the house got a little louder.
I recall the first emotional change for me. It was the year of my mother’s death. Thanksgiving approached and I could not wrap my mind around doing it without her. She had been a vital part of the day, cooking with my aunt, her voice and laughter ringing in the kitchen where steam rose from the stove and aromas led us to ask, “Is it time to eat?”
I asked Sweet William to take me away that year. I could not act like everything was the same, because it wasn’t.
Through the decades, members of our family have been added and subtracted. More often our circle grew, but sometimes it diminished due to death, divorce, travel or a move.
An open invitation policy meant we might have new neighbors, a pastor’s family, or friends needing a place of welcome. It was interesting to see who was at our Thanksgiving table.
This year, once again, I long for my dear ones in a distant state. I miss my dad, gone from us five years now, and remember how his birthday often fell on Thanksgiving day. I miss others who have not been at our table for many years. We have adjusted to their absence. But we don’t forget their faces, their laughter, and the richness they brought to our lives.
Friends come to mind who face the struggle of a loved one gone this year. My heart hurts with them. The first year is the hardest people say. But grief is not on a timetable. We must give place to the heartache, allow the tears to come and vent the sorrow. We need to be patient with ourselves as we work our way through the loss. Because joy will come in the morning.
Thanksgiving will always be my best family holiday. There will be hugs and laughter, deep discussions and funny stories, memories and questions. After dinner, the older men will meander to the couch to watch football and maybe take a nap. The women will browse Black Friday ads, whether we intend to go out or not. We’ll talk, circling around one subject and then another, never missing a beat. The young parents will discuss politics, careers, home, and children. The kids will be on an adventure of fun.
We will look around and be glad for those near. We will give thanks for those who have come and gone, remembering how they impacted our lives. We will wish for days when the entire family will be together once more.
We will remember God’s faithfulness through all the years of our lives. And we will give thanks to the One who blessed us with all of this.