This is a different Thanksgiving for us.
To begin with, snow is falling, the Christmas decorations are already up, and as I write this, I hear the Osmonds singing “The Christmas Waltz.” It almost feels like December 25th, but there’s no tree dropping pine needles on the floor and the kids didn’t wake me up at 5 am.
For the first time in our 12 years of marriage, Robyn and I are hosting family for the dinner later today. We have a turkey sitting in the kitchen, ready to have done to it whatever it is one does to a turkey, and the table is set for 12 people. It all feels a little surreal. Perhaps the reason for that is because this Thanksgiving we are hosting not out of tradition, but because of circumstance. This year, you see, was to be our year with Robyn’s mom.
Robyn’s mom was an amazing woman. Virginia loved to have the family around her and she loved Thanksgiving. She loved the preparation, the noise of the kids playing, the craziness of coming and going, and all the cacophony that arrives with a family holiday. This was to be her holiday. And yet, this year, she is gone. Gone too soon because of illness that felled her suddenly and without warning. Her day of celebration happened on October 1st when she went home to be with her Savior. That was her Thanksgiving Day.
So here we are today, on this day when we celebrate and thank God for His blessings, missing a very important part of it. Her warm smile will not be present, but her silver was proudly put on the table last night for the first time ever. Her laugh will not be heard in our house, but her love will be felt in every hug and kind word shared between her children and grandchildren. Her insistence that we eat more will not come sounding from the kitchen, but her presence–and the lack of her presence–will be felt by all.
We have much to be thankful for, and the snow falling reminds me that that the pain and loss we have felt since Virginia’s departing can be covered with the grace and peace of God. The world looks better covered in a blanket of snow, and even the saddest heart feels lifted when covered in God’s mercy. Every snowflake I see from my living room window reminds me that God’s love–and Virginia’s love–is a gift that we can cherish and hold close–and be so very thankful for this Thanksgiving Day.
This is a different Thanksgiving for us today, but I feel that it will be a good different. And that we will have started a new tradition–and perhaps–perhaps–from where she celebrates the day with my loved ones who have gone before (thinking of my two grandfathers, Gerald Gladstone Woodhouse and Thomas Clark Montague), we will hear an echo of her laughter and be reminded of just why we have so much to be thankful for.