Rocking babies I never dreamed that one day my life would look like this.
I never imagined that one of those tiny bodies I held close to my mama heart would not outlive me.
Now I sit in the same rocking chair in the dark, thinking about how so many things I wouldn’t have written into my story are now part of it.
And if I’m honest, it can easily overwhelm my heart. It can carry me to a place of despair and desperation where there’s no room for thanksgiving-not the holiday OR the feeling.
Here we are-the fifth year of holidays without Dominic-and I’m no better at it than I was at first.
Oh, I’ve figured out how to make my way through the day. I can lay out the plates, fill the pantry and put on a spread. I am not nearly as prone to tears as I once was-at least not while folks are watching.
But that easy flow of laughter and near chaos that once marked our gatherings has been replaced by a kind of mechanical plodding that moves from one moment to the next until the day has passed and I’ve survived once again.
I always expected our family to grow larger. I looked forward to the day we would no longer fit around the dining room table and we’d have to figure it out. Spouses and then grandchildren peopled my imagination with such clarity! While I never saw faces, I could hear the laughter and watch the motion of so. many. new. lives filling my home.
This year is especially strange.
Circumstances and work schedules and distance dictate that Thanksgiving will be spent with most of my family far away from my table.
So there won’t be just one empty chair today, there will be several.
And if I stare too long or focus too closely on what I don’t have, I can forget what I still possess.
It’s a temptation-always.
But temptation can be resisted. I am not doomed to follow that train of thought to the bottom of the pit of despair.
I refuse to let the darkness overwhelm the light.
I will be thankful for all the love this house has known, still knows and will know. I will be grateful that even though we are physically distant, we talk to one another, sharing laughter across the miles. I will cherish the moments I had with Dominic and rest in the knowledge that in eternity we will have so many more.
I can’t fill that chair-no one can fill that chair except my son-but I can fill my heart with good things.
I can choose thankfulness even when it’s hard.
Maybe that’s what Thanksgiving is really about-not an unending list of all the sweet things in life-but a short list of beauty extracted from the hard places.
Thanksgiving isn’t always bounty, sometimes it’s sacrifice.