I have a hard time believing it is the season of holidays again. While this year should be easier since it will be our fifth Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s without our son Daniel, I still feel myself putting on an extra shield of courage.
In the cool afternoon air, I am reminded of my first Thanksgiving since Daniel’s death. On that day, I wrote a poem; it wasn’t very good, but it did express what I had learned from reflecting on the origins of this national American holiday.
For the first time, I thought that the initial Thanksgiving among the settlers and the Indians couldn’t have been that glamorous. Why not? For one, there had been many losses. Around those tables were certainly fathers and mothers who had had to bury children. While thankful for much, these parents held heavy hearts too.
Continuing to reflect this way helps me realize Thanksgiving is also a holiday with reality. It is not a Norman Rockwell painting. While we like the warmth this artist has created in his capturing of a happy Thanksgiving table, we know that in most families, everyone is not present. Family members are gone from us and at times, all we can notice are the silent empty chairs.
How can we have Thanksgiving when we are lacking? This holiday does not have the bereaved in mind at all, we conclude.
But in time, we are able to reflect on the presence our loved children held in our lives instead of only focusing on their absences. They lived and we are the more blessed because of their lives – so vibrant and so loving. We become more aware of just how much they impacted our lives then— and even now.
Light a candle this Thanksgiving for those we miss. Recall how blessed we were to have them, even for a short while.
And remember that the origin of Thanksgiving does not stem from the situations of cheery and perfectly intact families. There had been many deaths during the difficult trek to this land from England and Europe and once the settlers arrived, more deaths due to illness, occurred. The Native Americans experienced heart-breaking losses as well.
Even so, these men and women found reasons to be thankful. So although our sorrow is great, we can be appreciative for the memories we hold in our hearts.
Thanksgiving is a holiday which includes each of us—bereaved and broken.
~ Copyright 2001 by Alice J. Wisler.