As I write this I am looking out the windows of my great-room and the sun is illuminating in his final glow of the day trees that are mostly bereft of their leaves. I have written this week about being grateful for my heritage and about the most memorable Thanksgiving I remember, today I want to talk to those of you who have lost a loved one, either because they died or simply left. I could bracket “simply left” because there are different reasons for a person to leave. I can actually speak to both of those reasons and I will, right now.
Let’s talk about death first. I think the first holidays after someone has died are the worst at least that is what I told myself last year when we were facing the first Thanksgiving without my daddy sitting at the head of the table. As I was preparing the turkey I heard my dad saying, “Harolene don’t cook a turkey, just bake a ham, I don’t like turkey!” I would always answer with, “Daddy I have to cook a turkey, everybody expects turkey on Thanksgiving but I will bake a ham for you!” and I did just that. Last year no one told me not to cook a turkey but while I was basting that big old twenty-two pound bird I also put a big ham in the cast iron Dutch oven and smiled as I said, “Daddy this is for you.” Then of course there was Christmas and I missed him calling me into their room and giving me money to buy something for myself for Christmas AND my birthday. The last year he was with us he told me that he was going to pay for the washing machine and dryer I had to buy as the others had both died almost simultaneously, and he asked if that was an acceptable gift! Every time I use either of those appliances I think of him. The Holiday I had a more difficult time with though was New Year’s Eve. That was always a special time because it was the anniversary of the day he and my mother married and the last anniversary they celebrated was their seventieth! I had mixed emotions when the day came because it went by with no notice at all from my mother. On New Year’s Day we were alone in the house with my family gone to Disney World and she sat watching the Rose Parade without ever mentioning daddy or her anniversary, I felt sad that she had lost that memory.
After the holidays there was the first birthday, April 5, and then finally the anniversary of the day he left, May 8, 2013. I had a sense of relief thinking that the hard part was over, it wasn’t.
As hard as it is to lose your loved one to death it is very hard to lose them because they chose to leave. The first December 18 that came around after my divorce I really thought I was unaffected until I was standing at a counter buying something and started to write a check, when I wrote the date I started crying leaving the salesperson befuddled as to what to do. I face it again every year on Christmas Eve as my two children, now adults with families of their own, go across town to spend it with their dad and his other family.
We could all find reasons to feel sorry for ourselves and be perfectly justified in it but why ruin the beautiful day we are living by looking back at what used to be, be it sweet or bitter? When my children were young I would pray for their day and then I would say, “Don’t let today be the yesterday you regret tomorrow!” I pass the same thing on to you, let’s enjoy this day with the people who care enough to come and sit at our table and make it a day that will cause them to say, “This is the best Thanksgiving I every had.”
Love, joy, blessings and calorie free dessert for you is my wish, Happy Thanksgiving!