"Ok, for real; we're just not celebrating Thanksgiving anymore. So done with this. Let's just leave the country from now on."
Kate and I were standing in the parlor at the funeral home, where we were at calling hours for yet another extended family member who died Thanksgiving day. "Seriously: my birth mom, then the Bug, now Mary. Who's going to be left? Thanksgiving is now, officially, my least favorite holiday."
Others in the room echoed the sentiment, among comments about our needing to circumvent the formalities and start renting out funeral homes for a shared Thanksgiving meal every year. I heard more than one, "So we're supposed to feel thankful?"
It's a tough dichotomy, feeling so much pain and heartache during a holiday when we are supposed it be counting our blessings. It was all I could do to hold my head up through dinner with our parents on Thursday. Not for the first time in the last year, I heard family members question what lesson we're supposed to learn from all this loss.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about what that lesson should be.
The lesson, I think, is about being able to look around, past our heartaches, and find reasons why we should still be thankful. Things like the warm houses where we can gather to mourn as a community, share food we've prepared, and comfort each other. We are not alone. We are not cold, or hungry, or frightened, like so many in this world are.
That I have a teenager who needs attention and guidance and patience and discipline. She keeps me grounded and focused outside of myself. She keeps Mr. and me from retreating into our own individual grief and becoming yet another failed marriage between two bitterly-damaged people, like so many others do after losing a child.
That Mr. and I have three sets of parents, and a much-beloved grandmother, all of whom need our attention and love, and who are equally glad to return both. There are so many others who don't have parents they can care for and who care for them.
That we live in a nation where we can call our representatives "whackaloons" and not go to prison for it. And that we have ready access to the tools to trumpet freely our whackaloonery. We are not kept silent. We are not isolated.
Mostly, though, that we have friends, neighbors, and family members to share our joys, hear our complaints, and to allow us to mourn our lost loved ones. That we do not need to bury our own souls alongside the ones we've bid farewell, because we cannot bear to face them alone. We don't have to face them alone. We have each other.
I think that's the lesson: To learn to see clearly, even through our tears, all the reasons we still have to be thankful. If we can give thanks now, we will give thanks doubly so when our blessings are more abundant.
"Despite what you think, you are blessed. Don't take it for granted. Because it all can be taken away. So give thanks."
It's a few days late, but Happy Thanksgiving.