A Thanksgiving for Orphans


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the starkness of late fall, the sense of the beginning of things, filled with the anticipation of the holidays and the beauty of the coming winter. Ever since I have had my own household I have filled my house with guests for Thanksgiving, joking that I was always on the look-out for holiday orphans.

But this year for the first time there will be no guests. I will make a traditional dinner, but it will only be my husband and me. For the first time we are both orphans ourselves, and I don’t have the energy to put up a cheerful front when the absence of so many people we loved will be so fully felt. Last year, on my mother’s last Thanksgiving, I could fill the absence with the special care of her. She was the last man standing. Now she is gone.

Of those who used to annually grace our table, we have lost four.

You would think that in middle age the loss of a parent would not hurt so much, but that is only what you would think until it happens to you. Every memory now is fraught with the poignancy of passing time, and the changing human geography of our lives. My dear friend, who lost her mother recently, said to me the other day: Remember when we were kids and no one ever died?

I see now how age can bring melancholy, with every new occasion or holiday memory colored by the loss of those who once celebrated with you, the loss of your old life, your old self, the family you always had.

But this is not the proper way to live. Each day is meant to be embraced with hope and joy. To do otherwise is a form of sinfulness.

Today will be hard, a deliberate pause to remember and mourn, and then to shed the old skin of grief.

Hope begins again tomorrow.

7 thoughts on “A Thanksgiving for Orphans

  1. So sorry to hear your mom passed Janet. She was always a character and gracious when I visited. Wonderfully written tribute. One can truly never go home again when they lose their parents and no one will care anymore if you run away. It is a more life changing event than one expects.


  2. I pray to and speak with my parents every day…Dad passed in 1999; Mom in 2008. I sold my home and quit my jobs twice to care for Mom. She was my best friend for decades. You get through it, never over it. This year I moved 300 miles north of my church home and friends to take a great new job. I had two invitations for Thanksgiving…300 miles and 560 miles away – but with snow coming in there was no way I was traveling for turkey. Being alone isn’t all bad…it allows you more time to thank God for all of the good things you have in your life. Maybe next year we’ll have rain and I’ll make the trip. Thanks for sharing


  3. A friend sent this to me today…as I had commented on Facebook that my dad passed away 20 years ago on Thanksgiving Day. It makes otherwise wonderul holiday a bit melancholy for me, and I can never seem to get into the holiday spirit until Thanksgiving is over.

    Well, THIS Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law gave birth to my first nephew. So I am happy to have a new life to help assuage the grief I still carry so heavily on this day in particular.

    Thanks you for sharing your thoughts with others that feel the loss of loved ones over the holidays.


  4. Truly sorry to hear of your loss. I can not say I know what you’re going through as both my parents are still with me. I have spent a number of years working as a nurse in a mental health capacity and have done grief counseling. You probably already know, the first year will be the worst, that first Thanks Giving, first Christmas etc… without that person in your life. After the first year it does get easier and I know you are too strong to let this put you in a melancholy state for very long.


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