Sometimes giving thanks is easy. Other times it is hard. Nevertheless, counting blessings is pleasing to God and contributes to a joy-filled life.
Senior Content Editor
Sometimes we forget how to be thankful.
That was certainly true for me that Thanksgiving of 2015. My mother and father went into assisted living earlier that year following Mom’s stroke and Dad’s heart surgery. So there would be no traditional Turkey Day gathering around the family table at the house in Vicksburg for the first time in my 62 years.
A spirit of gratitude was eluding me as I went to work on a “Plan B” Thanksgiving. That alternative turned out to be a visit to the folks’ favorite restaurant. Fortunately, it happened to be open for the holiday.
When we arrived in Schoolcraft and pulled into Marjo’s that afternoon, ours was one of two cars in the parking lot. When we entered the cafe, Dad took off with his walker for the far corner of the room to a space he and Mom had occupied for many a past meal. One other party in the whole restaurant, and Dad seated us at the table right next to them. Awkward! While a bit embarrassed by invading their Thanksgiving privacy, I decided to keep quiet and settle into the seat at my parents’ favorite table.
We ate food not like my grandmother would have made. By 2014, she had been gone for 34 Thanksgivings, but I could still smell her pumpkin pie. Our table talk centered on how they filled their days at the assisted living center in Portage … jigsaw puzzles, crafts, Jeopardy, and reading … and what we were up to in Muskegon … friends, church, home repairs, decorating for Christmas.
When my mother eventually talked about her desire to be “home,” three of us at the table said in unison, “You ARE home. Home at Brookdale.” Her answer then, and for the next six years of longing, was, “But I want to be home-home.” What could we say? The calendar declared it was Thanksgiving, but thanksgiving was not on the menu.
At that moment, the couple at the adjacent table stood up and put on their coats. As they headed to the front of the restaurant, we exchanged Thanksgiving greetings. I swallowed an ‘I’m sorry for infringing on your celebration,’ thinking it but not giving it voice.
It wasn’t long after that the four of us finished our dessert and made for the car. When I approached the cashier, she said, “Happy Thanksgiving!” And then added, “The pair that just left paid for your meal. They said they enjoyed the time with your family.” Wow! But how do you say, “Thanks!” to strangers long gone down the road?
What a lesson in kindness. What a reminder of the importance of community. What a reminder to have a grateful spirit on that first Thanksgiving away from home-home. Perhaps the biggest lesson of the day was that “home-home” is not a place on the map but a place in God’s heart.
Thanksgiving 2021 has arrived four months after the memorial breakfast, hosted by Marjo’s, celebrating the lives of my mom and dad, both lost to COVID. There is much to grieve right now. The pandemic, economic uncertainty, suffering in Haiti, racism in the U.S., climate change, threats to democracy, the assault on truth … all are realities we must confront. But, remembering a lonely Turkey Day in Schoolcraft that turned to gladness, I encourage us all to face the future with thankfulness, generosity, and a determination to pay it forward with joy.