I guess Thanksgiving is special to almost everyone for one reason or another. We each hold our own reasons for the love of the holiday.
This past month I found out that two old friends lost their wives to the great beyond. One died this fall and I was able to attend the funeral but the other had died in June and until last week I didn't know about it because we hadn't been in contact for awhile and the whole thing took place in Las Vegas.
Both my friends are moving on, but the wall between being able to do that and the raw emotions that are still in place is very thin. As any of us who have lost a loved one knows, it just takes something little to set off a series of emotional thoughts.
For these two men Thursday will be a tough day; the first Thanksgiving without their spouses. One had been married well over 40 years, the other 35 years. Tomorrow one will fly to New York to be with some of his kids that live on the east coast. The other, I assume will be Las Vegas with his kids and grandkids.
For them that day will be one of those where they go through the motions of a dinner and try to act like it is a wonderful holiday. But in actuality for those that have recently lost someone, no holiday or celebration makes up for the persons absense.
My friend that lost his wife this last month emailed me last Thursday about his plans and included in the email some comments about how he is doing.
"I have a few tender moments from time to time, and I welcome them because I know they will be rarer as time goes on," he stated as he went on about how her Lupus for the last 15 years of their marriage had changed their lives and their relationship. "(Those) feelings are kind of like giving her a hug. But I sure miss her. I miss her as a young, healthy wife...of course over the last years (she) slowly became my patient. I went from her husband to her caregiver, driver, cook, maid, etc. (But) those times are fading."
I cried as I read this. It reminded me of my father and his struggle being a caregiver for my mother in the last five or six years of her life, She died just before Thanksgiving in 1991 and I remember that first holiday without her. She had been so sick and she just lost her life one morning as she collapsed in the hall of their house. We went to my dads for Thanksgiving that year as my wife and my sister prepared the meal and tried to make things as normal as possible for him. But he looked so lost wandering around that morning. I sat down and talked with him.
"What am I going to do now?" he said to me.
"Well dad," I said. "You are now free to do what you want. For the last decade you took care of mom; that's all you did. Now you have time to do things you want to do."
He got tears in his eyes and then he looked at me and said, "Yeah, but what would I want to do without your mother?"
"Just remember her the way you loved her," I said as we both cried. "That's the best thing we all have."
So we all can be thankful about a lot of things this holiday; the food on our table, a place to live, a country we love, despite it's shortcomings. But the personal things, the wonderful memories of people we love, both alive and passed away, are what we should be most thankful for. Afterall they are the most enduring things we have.
Something we can keep forever.