In Gratitude for What Was, What Is, and What Is to Come
It’s hard to imagine a holiday apart from my family. For so many years we gathered around at my mom and dad’s home for all the holidays. Sometimes it wasn’t possible for us to all be together, but most of the time we made it happen. It was our tradition.
My five sisters, my single sisters and those with their families, would converge at one home and we would eat, laugh, and talk for hours. Our kids would run around, and in later years, the grandkids would be part of the scene.
And there was my father, the patriarch of our family, in the middle of the happy madness. He loved us all being there. He and my mom would make the big meal. We’d all overeat then help clean up, only leaving after one person made the first move.
We all loved my dad and our kids loved their Papa Ralph.
Thanksgiving 2004 was different. My father died in October—just one month before the holiday. Freshly grieving, we attempted the tradition of the gathering at my sister’s home. By this time I had moved away. The grandkids were a little older. I came home because it felt right to be together with my sisters, my mom, and my kids.
The pain of my father’s illness for six months and his quick death caught us all by surprise. It wasn’t time for him to go (we thought). We believed we had time. Imagine all six of us daughters, my mom, our spouses, and the kids, trying to create something that was never going to be again.
We couldn’t prepare for the sea of emotions or the tension of that day. Grief is such a weird emotion. One never really knows how to act when the unthinkable happens. We all feel and express in our unique way. But here we were, our first Thanksgiving without the man who meant so much to all of us and the memories of happier times overshadowing the gratitude for the times we had with him and for the time of sharing that first holiday without him. We got through it, fresh off the pain of our enormous loss. But I honestly don’t remember too much of that day.
My sisters and I suffered much growing up; we went through harrowing times as children. God gifted us with resiliency and a spirit of love for family. We have moved on through the grief, intense sadness and confusion and have learned to live without this man who meant so much to all of us. We all reach out to each other on his birthday and on the anniversary of his passing from this world to be with Jesus. We comfort each other.
Since 2004 more babies have been born. My mom turns 91 on November 4, and is still healthy and going strong. I am grateful for this moment right now. I will miss being with my sisters this Thanksgiving. I live on the East Coast and my son and his family, and a huge extended family, lives on the West Coast, which limits the times I get to be with them. My daughter and her family are here, so we will have our celebration together.
It will never be like it was, but isn’t that life? We have fleeting moments of happy events. I cherish the memories with deep gratitude for all that God brought us through and look forward with a grateful heart for days ahead.
Happy Thanksgiving. Miss you Dad.