I love the Thanksgiving holiday and what it stands for: an attitude of gratitude.
While I strive to maintain that outlook all the time, Thanksgiving offers me the opportunity to reflect on how successful I am at being grateful for everything I have in life.
This Thanksgiving is especially poignant to me: my lovely father-in-law passed away just a month ago, on my birthday. He was a very special man and a terrific grandpa to my three children and all his grandchildren, and the fact that he suffered greatly as he approached his death makes me sad. I’ve wrestled with the “why’s” of his misery over the past few weeks, as has my husband, Kevin, and of course his widow, Grandma. He had complications from an emergency hip surgery that led to him contract the dreadful staff infection that takes so many lives as it runs rampant in hospitals across the country. Lynn put on his game face and tried to overcome, but, after three and a half months of hospital misery, he succumbed. I woke on my birthday morning to a husband on his knees at my bedside, sobbing that his dad had died. Kevin is the strongest man I know, but loss of an adored father will overwhelm, as it did. In his own long battle with illness, I had never seen Kevin wracked with grief, though he certainly grieved the losses his illness dealt him. He is a fighter, and he battled through it for three years. He truly is the picture of “True Strength,” his book, but this blow crumpled him to the floor, and as I witnessed it, it leveled me, too.
Lynn’s passing is a more certain and permanent void than any Kevin experienced through his own struggles, and the circumstances are distressing for us all. In his death, Lynn became a statistic, and we all railed against that final insult. This certainly was not an unwelcome distraction from the terrible finality of his loss, but to what end? Who does our anger hurt? Only ourselves, right?
Colin Powell said “Get mad, then get over it,” but Ralph Waldow Emerson put it best when he wrote, ““For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
I approached Thanksgiving week this year with all these varied, passionate emotions. And then, as the holiday grew closer and I visited with extended family and friends, I realized death is never the end, but just a part of the journey, and this is a season of thanks-giving. It is a time to celebrate the joyous memories of the man who raised my husband-to-be with love and devotion, so he would become the tremendous father that he is, and Lynn lives on in him; a chance to remember the great gift of our time with Lynn and our own children. As my 7-year-old daughter pointed out to Grandma, hand on her heart, “He’s not gone, Grandma, because I have him here in my heart.” It is an opportunity to memorialize Lynn’s wonderful presence in our lives – a gift, for which we are obliged to show our gratitude.
Thanksgiving affords us the pointed opportunity to choose what to focus on, because we should encourage gratitude to eclipse disappointment.
I am grateful for the Thanksgiving holiday’s inspiration to refocus myself on being thankful.