This time of year can be challenging for many of us. If you’ve ever been through a holiday season without someone you love, then you know what I mean. Thanksgiving falls right in the midst of some of those “anniversaries” that aren’t really the kind that you celebrate. I have an especially hard time with Thanksgiving because the last one that my dad was alive, I was supposed to be at home in Michigan with my family. But since they had decided to go to Ypsilanti to have the traditional feast in my brother’s college apartment, I decided not to make the drive back to the mitten. Instead, we spent the day with some of my then husband’s family in the Chicago suburbs. At some point during the day, I called my family to say Happy Thanksgiving. I called my dad’s cell phone, but at we talked, I picked up on the fact that it sounded like they were at home. Puzzled I asked, “Where are you?” And my worst fear was realized. They had in fact changed their plans and cooked up the turkey, along with all the other goodies, right at home in EL. My dad explained that they didn’t think I planned to come home regardless, but I bawled into the phone that I would have been there if I had known they were HOME. My dad felt terrible. I felt terrible. I spent most of the rest of that day feeling sad. And that is still my association with Thanksgiving. A few days later, it became clear that if I had been there, it would have been the last time I saw my dad. Did I want that as my association with Thanksgiving? Which is worse? So, all these years later, and I am finally coming to the realization that I may never reconcile that. I don’t know what to do with Thanksgiving, in that respect, and it’s possible I never will.
In large part, for that reason, I have tried to add a lot of “Happy” to this Thanksgiving week by catching up with several of my friends that I have been neglecting in my chaos of the fall. On Saturday, the beau and I hosted Friendsgiving at my house. We made a ham and several friends brought a variety of dishes. We had wine, champagne that Heather brought, and Fireball soaked cherries. We had more mashed potatoes than we knew what to do with since Vega made the equivalent of a pound per person. We had a very rich Reese’s Cheesecake that goes a long way. Steve was convinced he could eat the entire huge first piece I cut. He made it about half way. It was a valiant effort.
On Monday I had lunch with my friend, Stephanie, who was my very first friend in the 4th grade. There is a good chance Brian and I will get together with her and a couple of our other classmates back in the ‘Ville later this week. Stephanie can make me laugh til my stomach hurts and she can remind me that no matter what things will be ok.
And then today, I had lunch with my sweet friend Jaime. She is a ray of sunshine in a sometimes dark world, and she always shows up in my life right when I need her. Today was no exception. We both have a tough time with the holidays. She lost her dad a little more than a year ago and her story is absolutely tragic. But her strength and resolve to overcome the unthinkable, inspires me to keep shining the light.
We caught up on all the happenings in our busy lives, talked about our plans for the holiday and we talked about my impending trip to Nicaragua that is edging ever closer. I mentioned that there was no coincidence in the timing of this trip. When I signed up back in the beginning of the year, I still hadn’t even thought about going back to school. When I started school, it looked like my trip would land right in the middle of my externship. But due to a transfer of credits and finishing up early, I find myself in between programs with no school, no work, no major commitments. But in addition to the fact that the logistics of the trip worked out perfectly, I see even more reasons why this is the perfect time to go.
Sometimes its easy to get so focused on the craziness of life that is happening right in front of us in our own tiny little corner of the world, that we forget that there is so much more to the world. And for that reason, I am thankful that I get to leave my stress, and struggles, and blahs of what is happening in St. Louis, behind for a week to reprioritize and focus on someone else.
Something else Jaime and I talked about was an article she read lately called Grieving and Grateful. Even if our grief, that will never completely go away, it is still absolutely possible to find joy and be grateful. Sometimes it comes easy and sometimes you have to search for it. But without further ado, and in no particular order, I give you…
RRG’s Grateful List
- My children, even when they are driving me bananas, they are truly the light of my life.
- My health, even during this season of sore throats and sniffles.
- Running, even when I hate it.
- Ice cream. Cereal. Pizza. Chips and Salsa. Pancakes. You get the idea.
- My family. All of them, near and far, the ones I talk to daily and the ones I don’t.
- My education, my brain that is smarter than I give it credit for sometimes.
- My awesome friends, who make me laugh or listen to me or pick up my kids or run with me or give me hugs do whatever it is I need done at any given moment.
- Movies. Books. Music.
- The opportunity to travel, to experience new cultures, make new friends and see where my path leads.
- Boots and sweaters.
- 40 years of amazing memories.
- 40 years of success and failure. I know that I am right where I am supposed to be and my struggles have made me into exactly who I am.
- My beau, who takes care of me when I’m sick, pays attention to the things I say, cleans my gutters, and accepts me just as I am.
- My house, and everything in it. But mostly the safety it provides and the love that fills it.
- Mountains and oceans and woods and everything about the incredible world we live in.
- March Madness. My Spartans.
- My heart that feels joy and pain, and that loves fully.
- My God, who loves me enough that he doesn’t allow me to grieve without hope.
We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4