Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Grandpa Welcomed Her Home

This week has flown by like a flash of lightning. Yet it feels like an eternity since we arrived in Ohio on Monday night. We turned into in my sister’s driveway at 9:15 pm and carried our luggage into the house. We embraced and chatted about plans for our visit…not ready to acknowledge what we were both thinking. This would be a bittersweet gathering. We were happy to all be together at Grandma’s but felt a deep anguish knowing this would be our first Thanksgiving without my Mother.

As we returned to the kitchen, the illuminated screen of my sister’s phone caught her eye. The notifications revealed a missed call from our step-father. The text message that had just arrived demanded her attention. The smile on her face was replaced with knitted brow and her eyes conveyed an air of confusion. Her voice quivered as she shared the brief message that had arrived at 9:30 pm “Mom passed”. His Mother, our Grandmother, was gone.

We rushed to the hospital to join our family. Everyone was in shock. Our sister Elli (who lives in Georgia) had visited with Grandma earlier in the day and had talked with her briefly over the phone during dinner. Grandma had been home from the hospital for three weeks and was doing good. She was excited to have everyone home this year for Thanksgiving.

We embraced one another and shared our tears…our pain…for yet another loss. My heart was breaking for my step-father. Exactly eleven weeks ago, Mom…his wife of 30 years, was welcomed to Heaven. And now, his lightly scabbed wound ripped open by the passing of his Mother. I lost the battle to hold back my tears the second I saw the pain in his eyes. When we embraced, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of my pain. It felt as if a carnival strongman was pounding my bruised heart with a sledgehammer. I managed to choke out a faint “I’m so sorry” between the sobs. We took turns visiting with Grandma while waiting for her transport. I was eerily comforted to see the familiar faces of the gentlemen from the Laubenthal-Mercado Funeral Home.

After deciding on a game plan for the next day, we split company with hugs. Elli was tentative about returning our Grandparent’s house (where they were staying) with her young boys. I’m sure her apprehension was growing as they navigated the train tracks and drove the last mile on the snow-covered road. The headlights on their Acura pierced the darkness to reveal a 10 point buck waiting for her in the front yard. She was shocked that the buck didn’t run away when they pulled into the driveway. Elli’s jaw dropped in disbelief as the buck continued to stand in the grass and look back at them…even when they poured out of the car.

At that moment, God spoke to Elli’s heart and comforted her soul. His still voice confirmed what she had believed to be true. Grandpa and Grandma were no longer separated by the temporary and eternal worlds. After 12 years of being apart, they were now together in Heaven. To Elli, and to me, The buck symbolized Grandpa welcoming Grandma to their eternal home.

Elli’s heart overflowed with peace…with an immense joy…knowing that God provided a vision to satisfy her need for confirmation…a need that she didn’t realize she had until it was fulfilled.

With this realization, the buck walked across the road to the edge of the vacant field. He paused for a moment…as if saying “good-bye”. Then, emerging out of the shadows, a doe stepped into the glow of the street light. A tearful smile spread across Elli’s face as she watched the pair disappear into the night.

My heart leapt in my chest when Elli shared her experience with me. I thought back to the beautiful sunset that God sent to us with Mom’s passing. Both were very different imagery but spoke to us the same way. And although we miss our loved ones desperately, we are humbled that God cares enough to deliver specific signs that speak to us in ways that others may not understand or embrace.

Divided Thanks

Thanksgiving…A time when we traditionally pause and reflect on life. Looking back over the previous year and giving thanks for our blessings…those we recognize and those known to only God.

Today, my heart is divided.

I went to bed at 2:00 am but not because of the usual pre-meal preparations. I was on a mission to finish a memorial video for my Grandmother’s funeral service scheduled for tomorrow. James and I arrived at my sisters’ house in Ohio at 9:15pm. We had barely finished carrying luggage in the house when we got the call that Grandma had just passed. We loaded back into the truck to meet up with the rest of our family at the hospital. Working on the video was draining. As I synced music to photos, I found myself flashing back to September. Back to when I was focused on the exact same exercise for my Mother’s memorial video. At 2:00 am, the final draft was finished…time for bed. Wiping tears from my eyes, I put my laptop to sleep and ascended the stairs to join my hubby.

I snuggled in and quickly drifted off to sleep. But not for long. My slumber interrupted by thoughts piercing my unconsciousness. Rising from bed, I looked out the open window…my gaze crossing the lawn…to Mom’s memorial statue. A silent conversation followed…known only to the two of us. Finally I uttered a verbal “Happy Thanksgiving” to Mom.Memorial Blur

My heart is divided.

I am deeply saddened that my step-father has lost both his Wife of 30 years and his Mother…exactly 11 weeks apart. I am saddened that two holidays will now eternally elicit mixed feelings. Mom passed at Labor Day – just before my brother’s birthday. Grandma passed just days ago – on my sister’s birthday and anniversary. These days have been added to the list of other special dates that we remember each year. My Mom and Step-Father’s anniversary also marked the day his father passed unexpectedly. My birthday marks the day my Father left this earth (though he was pronounced a few days later). On the calendar, they are just another day…marching along…leading way to the next. But in our lives, they cause us to pause, remember, and weep…sometimes uncontrollably.

My heart is divided.

When I allow myself to look past the grief, I am overpowered by an intense joy. I know Jesus welcomed Mom home in September. And I confidently visualize Mom and Grandpa, smiling ear-to-ear…standing arm-in-arm, behind Jesus…welcoming Grandma home. My Bible tells me to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV) I don’t know the reason our loved ones were taken from us. But I do trust that God has a purpose. And when I allow myself to look past the grief, I know that they are happier in Heaven than here…in this temporary world. Our grief will be replaced by pure joy when our time comes to join them…to be welcomed home.

And somewhere in the middle…the dividing line…is a bit of guilt. How can I be happy? How can I enjoy the holidays when we have empty seats at the table? Am I discounting their loss if I move on with festivities so soon after their passing?

My heart is divided.

Does our laughter betray the pain inside? Or do we honor our loved ones by finding a way through the pain to remember the love and warmth we enjoyed in their presence? Can we mourn our loss and celebrate their lives?

Alarming Thanksgiving Tradition

Family traditions…everyone has them. Some are sweet and heart-warming – the kind that elicit an “AHHHHH” when you share with friends. And some are…well…just different. The kind you tell ONLY your closest friends in fear of being labeled as crazy or strange. Regardless of the nature of the tradition…it’s something your family holds dear.

Ours is one of those DIFFERENT traditions. Prepare yourself…this could get messy!

For reasons no one knows, Mom started a new…unsettling…tradition when her first three children became teenagers. Fortunately, the tradition found a quick demise when we moved away from home, sparing her future step-children from the same seasonal “joy”.

OK…I’m ready…here we go…

Mom liked to serve our Thanksgiving meal for lunch. This allowed us to clean the kitchen and have everything back in order by mid-day. Eating so early also meant that we enjoyed a wonderful left-over meal for dinner. And, still had time to visit with friends or attend a movie during the evening.

To launch her plan, Mom would set her alarm for early Thanksgiving morning…EARLY…like in the WEE hours early…to prepare the turkey for the oven. Her process started with cleaning the turkey and removing the giblets. Then she carried the turkey to wake us…one-by-one…as she exclaimed “Gobble, Gobble, Gobble…say thank you to Thomas Turkey…he’s giving his life for you.” If we didn’t awaken soon enough…Thomas was inclined to assist with a tap from his wing or drumstick…whatever it took get us to stir.Turkey Wakeup 1

Turkey Wakeup 2

After attempting to fend off the attack, we reluctantly addressed the naked bird. Gratitude expressed, she moved on to the next child. And then back to the kitchen for further cleaning, stuffing, and into the awaiting oven.

Though this tradition hasn’t repeated for many years, we always relive the details during our annual Thanksgiving celebration. Perhaps it’s because we were traumatized during those formative years and the mere sight of a whole turkey brings back a flood of memories. This year our Thanksgiving stories are changed forever. It’s the first time that Mom will not be leading the stories of Thanksgivings past while hovering around the table…at the ready to replenish an empty plate

Hopefully mine is not the only “DIFFERENT” tradition out there. Does anyone have any traditions you’re crazy enough to share?