The end of November brings us to this time of the year when we focus on all that we are thankful for. Thanksgiving is a time of so many mixed emotions, and as a priest I think about all the people I encounter throughout the year and what this Thanksgiving will be like for so many who come to mind.
I think about those I married who are celebrating their first Thanksgiving as a married couple and possibly entertaining for the first time. The fear and nervousness of it — will it all turn out OK and will we have enough food? I think about all the baptisms I celebrated and those who are parents for the first time this Thanksgiving and those who became parents again throughout this year.
Recently, there was a little boy in the church’s front row with his big brother and family who is having his first Thanksgiving in America. While he is too small to care, I remember praying last year his Mom and Dad would get the word they could pick him up in the Ukraine. He didn’t get here for Christmas but he got here on time for the Easter bunny.
I think about those who are celebrating this Thanksgiving in a new home. Be it a larger one, a smaller one, an assisted living, a nursing home, or in another state, it’s a new opportunity to make new memories.
I think about those who are away from their family for the first time. I remember not being home with my family one Thanksgiving and missing the recipes and the pies that only my Grandma could make.
I think about the empty seats at many Thanksgiving tables this year as I think about so many who have given loved ones back to God. I know the feeling ever so well with the death of my brother-in-law just weeks ago. I won’t have him to torment this year as we will put up Mom’s Christmas tree as soon as dinner is over. That was not his favorite part of Thanksgiving day, especially when I teased him about heading to his home next to put his tree up. That conversation usually ended with something like — well, never mind, I better not go into it here.
I personally love this holiday because it is a time of reflection for me. My family is four hours away in northern Michigan. The long drive is a great time to enjoy my memories and the older I get, the more precious they become. While my grandparents are dead, I think about having Thanksgiving dinner at their homes — Grandma’s recipes and the smell of their homes with the turkey cooking.
I think about all the people whom I have had Thanks-giving dinner with throughout my life and how they have been a blessing.
This Thanksgiving, take time to think about all the people who have been a part of your journey to today. Think about the blessing they have been to your life, think about those most important teachers in your life, who is it who has taught you what no one else ever has or could? What are your favorite Thanksgiving memories?
Take time this Thanks-giving to think about what this holiday is all about, being thankful for all our blessings. As we give thanks, let’s be mindful of those who are homeless, especially those whose lives have been devastated on the East coast; those who are serving in the military and are away from their families; and those who are alone this Thanksgiving.
May God’s blessings be upon you and yours this Thanksgiving.
Bartoszek is chaplin at Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe.