The holiday season has arrived and I welcome it!
I open my arms to the experience of feeling excited and simultaneously having the sensation of a throat constricting grief – well-known visitors during the holidays. Together, bitter and sweet emotions have given my life vibrancy I would have least expected, especially when my brother died sixteen years ago.
Indeed, I would have gladly cast off any emotions that are the antithesis of joy or happiness. And as an eight-year-old at that time, I probably did avoid such feelings. Today, I give thanks for those moments that I can mourn the loss of my brother and give thanks for the life that he lived. Thus begins the annual journey through the holiday season: family gatherings and painful reminders of those who are not present physically, turkey and cranberry sauce and trips down memory lane!
Looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday, I was reminded of a quote by H.U. Westermayer who wrote, “The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of Thanksgiving.”
There is nothing quite like reading a quote that gets to the heart and marrow of the coming holiday. How paradoxical it is, though – the thought of giving thanks while digging more graves than building houses. So what was it that gave the Pilgrims the ability to give thanks during such a difficult period of history? Could it be that the trials they endured individually and corporately as Pilgrims added a certain perspective and dimension to life?
When I think of the Pilgrims, petticoats, stockings and buckle shoes come to mind, along with the image of a group of people traveling together. As I begin preparing for Thanksgiving by baking an assortment of after-dinner treats and readying my stomach for the feast that is to come, I cannot help but think that all of these subtle preparations are done in anticipation of sharing a meal with those that I love – my immediate family and extended relatives, and of course our four legged companions!
If or when I feel the tears begin to pool in my eyes, I hope that the image of Pilgrims journeying together comes readily to mind. Not only because I love a bit of sappiness every now and then, but because I believe we too are a “Pilgrim People.”
After all, Thanksgiving is a day when we individually and collectively give thanks – and while giving thanks may bring up intense emotions, I can be assured that I am not alone. The memory of loved ones who have died is with me on Thanksgiving, and so too are those that are still living – traversing this life right beside me … two gifts for which I am very grateful!
Kate McGrath 2010Tags: anger, belongings, funerals, money, Depression, guilt, signs and connections