I have been approaching Thanksgiving this week with a sense of dread. The holiday seems heavy this year, weighed down by the memories of who won’t be at the table — my father, who died on Thanksgiving Day 2020; my mother, who died last year days before the holiday; and of course, Joe, who died just 3.5 months after her.
It’s also weighed down by what it symbolizes — the beginning of four months of firsts. The first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first wedding anniversary, the first New Year’s without Joe. And then the memories of those long, long weeks in the hospital, wavering between hope and despair time and time again until we come to the first anniversary of his death.
It’s a time when something as simple as painting the kitchen a new color can bring on floods of tears because the color that Joe chose long ago is now gone. For the next few months life will be full of such landmines of memories and grief.
But unexpectedly I have also been feeling something else as Thanksgiving approaches — gratitude. For the last few days I have been overcome by waves of grief, but also by waves of gratefulness.
There is so much for which to be thankful this year. For friends (and sometimes strangers) who have showed up at just the right moment. For a congregation that has given us so much love and support. For family who have been there for both Joseph Henry and me. For work that is once again fulfilling and life giving. For a therapist who helps me navigate this new life that I did not want. For so many people near and far who have been, and continue to be, there in so many ways that I cannot begin to list them all.
Grief and gratitude. Paradoxically I am feeling both more deeply this Thanksgiving than ever before. One does not negate the other. But one does make the other a little easier to bear.
I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving.
With love and gratitude,