Thanksgiving is a time when we take mental inventory of our blessings. The familiar refrain of over the meadow and through the woods creates a heartwarming Rockwell-esque image at this time of year but for many the holiday may be less than picture perfect.
During a season of thanksgiving when we are focusing on gratitude, some can’t help focusing on being alone, sick, or out of work.
So, how do we give thanks in the dark?
Like the breaking of bread, life brings versions of brokenness. And Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. (Luke 22:19).
Broken bread – crumbs.
Sometimes we need to gather what’s left.
A Thanksgiving tradition of ours has been to record our thankfulness on a scrap and guess which family member wrote the gratitude piece. It wasn’t always around the table.
Reviewing old journals, I realized how many holidays have been spent in the hospital at the side of a loved one. Often, our Thanksgiving table was a metal tray and the centerpiece the one afflicted in a sick bed.
I bowed low reading November entries from assorted years – the baby son who nearly died from a rare illness and as a young adult, this same son lay still in a trauma unit from October until January, the result of a near fatal car accident. A younger son who received not one, but three kidney transplants, at this time of year . . and a husband who suffered multiple strokes, ultimately pronounced brain dead. And lived.
Remembrance of gatherings around the bounty of family and food seemed distant while keeping bedside vigils and sharing a sterile feast. Despite the narrow vision of our personal circumstances, it was clear to see we were not unique because surrounding cubicles were crowded with patients and their loved ones.
First, I’m thankful that I’m thankful.
I speak with those who find this special day just another added stress – fussing and preparing to deal with family drama and kin they’d rather not see. I’ve been there, until I had to be somewhere else that helped me to see the radical blessing of everything and everywhere.
So, I’m reminded to seize the moment. Too soon our table can be altered by loss or separation in some form. I give thanks for occupied chairs, the unexpected miracles sitting at our table. I give thanks for unoccupied chairs, the keepsakes holding memories of where my mother and aunt were once seated. Although they are at a greater banquet, their presence will remain at our table.
I encourage you to cherish the seat that holds a loved one. The gift of now.