“I hate going to Mom’s on Thanksgiving. Too much family in a closed in space with too much time to talk and annoy each other.”
I overheard this at Starbucks the other day and I knew the holiday’s were in full swing. In the midst of planning menus for Thanksgiving and decorating for Christmas I find that here and there someone is bemoaning their family dynamic. Often times, I’m sure it’s legitimate. But on this day, as I cradled my cinnamon latte and stared past the young girl who’d made the comment, I remembered the year that I stopped grumbling about family and our holiday schedule.
It was Thanksgiving night some years ago. Unseasonaly cold under a dark starless sky. Our family gathered as always at Mom and Dad’s. Earlier in the day,we’d taken turns telling what we were particularly thankful for that year. We’d feasted until we were ready to pop. We’d done that twice actually. The men played catch in the yard and the girls helped the kids with a Christmas craft. There was a fun tree decorating as the sun started to go down, all 9 of the grandchildren in Christmas P.J’s made cute pictures. I’m pretty sure there was some bickering and annoyance that day. But I don’t remember those things anymore.
As night time settled in, my little brother David ended the festivities as he always did. Wowing us with the 1st lighting of the outside of Mom and Dad’s house. We huddled on the front lawn waiting while he showed off a week of hard labor. He was so proud as we clapped and gushed over the thousands of lights on display. It was, as always, quite a spectacle.
Our car was the last to leave. As we backed out of the long driveway, I couldn’t take my eyes off the house. So beautiful with all David’s hard work. Just then David stepped out onto the porch to wave one last time.
The image burned in my heart, as some important images tend to do. David in his red and hunter green flannel shirt, untucked. One hand in his pocket and one lifted in good-bye. Just then the song on the radio seized my attention…Sarah McLachlan sang hauntingly,
“In the arms of the angel … may you find , some comfort here.”
Waving back, fingertips gently touching the frigid window, I knew there would be no Christmas lights on the house next Thanksgiving. I wept. That day had been a sacred day and I almost missed it’s significance.
Just a few months later David lost his battle with cancer. That Thanksgiving was our last with him and without David, the house has never looked quite the same. Then again, without David, the world has never looked quite the same.
Things change. Sometimes so profoundly that life as we know it is gone forever.
I’ve found that the things that grated on me about holidays in years past, are the very things I remember now with tenderness and longing.
When with your family who gets on your very last nerve, breathe in an eternal perspective.
Love them with intention.
Overlook all the junk.
That’s what I wanted to say to the young woman at Starbucks… because you never know when your living a sacred day.
Love to you my Sweet friends and prayers for each one of you as together we live our legacy~one day at a time.