Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankfulness

Thankfulness.

Today we got a phone call from my aunt who lives in New Mexico.  Her spouse of 50 years died during the summer and she is still feeling it.  Deeply.  She's always felt deeply about things, though.  It's her way.  And we're in the town where Grampie and his lovely wife live.  Just down the road from where one of my friends is with her mom because her dad died just four days before Glo.  Across the state, another friend is sharing Thanksgiving with her father, a widower of two weeks.  So when I think of our loss, think of all these others who have also suffered loss this year, I'm struck by what we gather to celebrate tomorrow.  And struck by how that very first post-harvest celebration, the numbers of that band of intrepid pilgrims was greatly reduced. The natives who came to share their corn and other delicacies with them were also greatly reduced.  For everything they were grateful for, there was also a silent place beside them at the table where someone they had known and loved couldn't raise their voice or a glass, or even a heartbeat. 

So it strikes me that in their thankfulness, there was also grief.  In their words of celebration, there were nuances of loss.  And maybe this is how it always is.  This is life, after all.  Isn't it?  For what we have, we are grateful.  For what we no longer have, we are sad.  For what we hope, we speak softly, and what we regret, we whisper.  We come to the table with a mixed bag, don't we?  All we've done, all we haven't done. 

So for me, this year, in my thankful, wistful heart, there is also this mixed bag.
I'm thankful for Glo, for the life she led, the conversations we had, the warmth of her bright self.  And sad to be without her at this table.
And for my mother, a shell still sitting in her wheelchair, but absent in every other way.  I'm thankful for the small moments of clarity we've shared in the last year, thankful for the love that God so clearly gave back to me for her.  And I'm sad for what she's become, so less than human in her still human flesh.
For my father-in-law, I am grateful for the toasted marshmellow of a man he's been for me, and our children.  You know, crusty on the outside, but warm and sweet within.  And I'm sad that he's no longer the "Doc-the-Rock" he used to be, strong and steady.

I'm grateful for good friends--the exceeding abundance--who have so expanded my life.  Deepened it, broadened it, lengthened it, heightened it. Yes, all at once.  For the friends we can call at a moment's notice and ask for giant favors they feel privileged (!) to give us. And I'm sad for the distances between us and some of those friends.  No loss of anything but geography, but I'll bet the pilgrims understood that sadness as well.
Far more than me, of course.

And I'm grateful that I get to walk this uneven terrain of chronology with my Beve, with my adult chublets, with siblings, siblings-in-law.  Even dogs.  And I'm sad that...nothing. For them, I'm just thankful.

What doesn't make the list strikes me as well.  Not a dang thing.  That is, nothing material.  With the death of a loved one, this hits hard and clear.  It isn't things that count.  They never did, never will.  We'll leave an empty spot at the table tomorrow.  Drink at toast in honor of those at the great banqueting hall in the King's court.  Just think, our loss is truly--truly!--their gain.

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