How to give Thanks when someone’s missing from the table.

Life is full of amazing moments, and people!

Belly laughs that get the whole room cackling. Sweet, slobbery kisses from the teeniest family members. The smell of a turkey, just out of the oven; even better if it’s your first and you didn’t burn it! Bing Crosby crooning out words that feel like memories. Ice skating with your sweetheart, star gazing with your daughter, a victory, surviving defeat, sunrises, sunsets, singing at the top of your lungs – with your best friend, being eye to eye with a bison, holding hands, catching snowflakes on your tongue. Life, is, amazing.

It also hurts. As wonderful as life is, it’s equally terrible. I don’t even need to list the reasons why. You know. You’ve counted each wound, each scar, taken inventory of the awfulness of life.

Today, around many of our tables, a face will be missing. Maybe several faces. It could be the first year or the fifteenth year or the fiftieth year, but still, they’re gone. Taking with them some of the fierceness and the sweetness of each beautiful moment shared.

Days of celebration flip us on our head.

Maybe it’s because we take the time to slow down and the missing creeps in stronger. Or maybe because they shared so many holidays, and birthdays, and big days with us, their absence stands out strong.

Few of us have escaped such loss. If you haven’t lost a dear person you’ve lost something else, something that mattered; a friendship, a dream, a job, health, youth, a home, faith, innocence.

May I share some advice? Don’t begrudge the loss. Embrace it. Name it. Grieve it. But don’t live there. Celebrate what was, miss what isn’t, but please, don’t forget to hope for what’s to come.

This Thanksgiving say their name. Cry and laugh. Embrace whatever season you’re in. Maybe grief is a toothless old specter and this year is bursting with good things. Then sing and smile and pass some of that good cheer over! Maybe grief is your bedfellow, tucking you in at night. Then cry, be honest, don’t pretend you’re in another season. Most likely though you have a foot in both. Joy and Sorrow are companions, so my mother said. One sweetens the other.

The year is growing old, soon we’ll tell it goodbye. It’s appropriate that we should look back and name our thanks. Even when there has been an abundance of sorrow, we can be people of hope. With Job we can say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Because in exchange for our rebellion he gave his innocence, because he is reconciling all things to himself, because ultimately the old way of life will pass away for a better one. (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 1:10, Revelation 21)

That’s how we give thanks today, even though there’s a hole, we remember the story isn’t over. God is putting our losses into perspective. The good will remain.

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A Thanksgiving remembrance for my mama.

Even though in this imperfect, broken world there is loss, today I’m giving thanks for the good. I’m giving thanks that God’s word promises he is stronger than death. I’m giving thanks that Jesus paved the way to be the first reborn among many brothers. I’m giving thanks for what was, and what will be. Today I will miss my mom but I will also give thanks.

What are you thankful for?

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