Thanksgiving Message 2022
As we gather this year to give thanks, not everyone we love will be around the table. Maybe because of other family obligations, too far to travel, or you've grown apart. I was fortunate to almost always have my sons, Bill and Dave, with me for the holidays. Dave's arrival could be iffy, but more often than not, before the turkey was carved, he would arrive and we would be whole. Worries that he wouldn't show or about what condition he would be in if he did show, would melt away when all our chairs were filled. I haven't had that worry for nine years. Like so many who have lost a loved one, the worry now is getting to and through the holidays knowing he isn't coming.
Time marches on. Family dynamics change. We adjust. We don't forget.
Cranberry sauce has never been the spotlight of our Thanksgiving feast, but I'll think of my mother when the ruby red berries sparkle through her crystal bowl. I won't have that last green tomato from my father's garden turned red on the window sill, but a sweet memory to share when we serve the salad. My secret way of having Dave with us on special days varies. Sometimes I'll wear a pair of earrings or a necklace he gave me. Other times, I might wear a locket with his picture inside or a piece of clothing he chose for me. For Thanksgiving this year, I decided to have him with us by making his most requested Thanksgiving dish, Jello salad.
Bill and Liz are hosting this year with the rest of the family bringing a favorite dish. I texted and said, "Instead of a green salad, I would like to bring a Jello salad." Liz wrote back, "Sounds good to me," but Bill wrote back, "Jello salad? I don't understand a Jello salad. What is it? Have you made it before? Is this a new recipe? Ha! I really want a boring normal salad."
I have not put Jello salad on the table since Dave left us and obviously it wasn't one of Bill's Thanksgiving favorites, but God help me if I forgot the mashed potatoes and gravy! I had to decide ... give in, forget the Jello salad, and make a "boring normal salad," or do I let Bill in on my secret way of having Dave with us? I was pretty sure Bill's response was him just teasing me and being funny, so I took a chance. I wrote back and said I would bring both and explained why I wanted to bring a Jello salad.
As I knew it would, our lighthearted back and forth turned sad and I was sorry to have opened the old wound. Bill immediately texted back, "Jello salad sounds good! Grady will love it and it will be great to have a memory on the table."
Grieving never goes away and holidays are magnets to draw back the sadness of losing a loved one. Grieving also brings guilt and stifles making happy new memories for fear of forgetting. To move forward, I had to learn how to get through the difficult stages of grief and holidays with one less chair. It's not easy, but it's okay ... it's more than okay, it's healing to make new memories to enrich the old memories.
The year Dave turned 20 and before addiction held him in its grip, I asked Dave to give our Thanksgiving blessing. Here's an excerpt from what he said: "Thanksgiving is the celebration of life. The coming together of people, who otherwise may not, to reflect back on all that your life is - to hope for all your life will become. It is a celebration of acceptance, of love, and of forgiveness."
I hope you find acceptance, love, forgiveness, and happy memories on your table this Thanksgiving 2022.