As Thanksgiving approaches, we are all bombarded with messages of how thankful people are, how thankful we should be, how many blessings lives are filled with. Those are all good, positive messages. But, kind of like the forced joviality of Christmas (read: consumerism), sometimes the idea of thankfulness feels very shallow and on the surface…lacking sincerity so that we will buy a bigger turkey, slap on a few more fall themed decorations, and drink our weight in pumpkin spiced ____________ (fill in the blank). Then, of course, if we do all of these things, our holiday will be exactly like the Norman Rockwell painting and our life will also reflect that aura of perfection.
The idea of this is good. The idea of this is full of love and hope and thanks giving. I like that. But, the reality is unattainable. It is too perfect. It is lacking the realities of life. Particularly if you are grieving. Last year, just a few months after losing our Bennie, we were faced with our first holiday without him…what should have been his first was, in fact, our first. Because after you lose a child, every day thereafter is a first without them. This is true after you lose a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a friend. Those firsts…uf…those are tough. We tried to be thankful. We wrote our thanks down and brought them to his grave so that he could be a part of our thanks giving. But mostly, we were heartbroken. Devastated. Sad. Confused about why this had happened. Those early days are dark and overwhelming and a place I hope not to revisit. Though, I know I will revisit them often. That is part of the cycle of loss and grief and memory. I have grown comfortable with that. I have grown accustomed to those visits. In some ways, they are comforting because even though those days were dark, they were close to him.
So, this year we face another first. Our daughters first holiday season. This is how it is supposed to be. Joyful. Sweet. Heart filling. Yet, in all those moments there is the hole that is Bennie sized. The laughter that we should be hearing. The discoveries he should be making. They go hand in hand. And while thanks giving can sometimes be hard when faced with those two companions, gratitude is not. Gratitude is easy. Gratitude for Zoey’s life. For her breath. For her joy. For her changing and growing. And at the same time, gratitude for her brother, who opened our hearts so wide to love that loving every single moment with his sister, even the hard ones, is easy…as simple as anything we’ve ever done. This year, we are grateful, oh so very grateful for our loves and our losses and our coming and our going. Happy Thanksgiving.