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.