Friday, October 18, 2013


Disclaimer: I usually try to avoid sharing specific instances such as these because it involves real people whom I love and adore and I in no way want to give the impression that I have been wronged. I have been well loved and cared for. It's just that these instances are part of life and the experience of grief that is not always shared by even the ones closest to us.

Excitement bubbled over as everyone started to arrive. My family shares a genuine love and support for one another, so looking forward to these times when we all get together...

Thanksgiving with my family looks as traditional as any other... You have the big, beautiful house, women making the big meal, the brothers bringing home their girlfriends, the children making awkward comments to the girlfriend about potential marriage...!, the cousins running amok, inventing games, and jumping on the trampoline with their Uncles... Then there are usually guests, unsuspecting visitors who apparently didn't realize they were coming to a fiasco of such magnitude, with turkey, decorations, pies, pets, and loud, rowdy siblings, with seven young, rambunctious children... (SO AWESOME!)

I must confess that I didn't even realize I would be especially impacted on such a day. I suppose I assumed it was a day like any other, a visit with my awesomely loud family, Lynn's presence still absent. I coped decently well, enjoyed visiting with these beloveds, meeting the new visitors, and playing with the kids... I hadn't even thought about last Thanksgiving... I hadn't prepared myself for the table, for dinner, for the prayer...

My heart lurched into my chest as I heard my sister passionately declare, We're going to go around the table and share what we are thankful for! This may sound trite and cliche in a blog, but in actuality, it comes forth from a deep and sincere desire to offer thanksgiving up to our heavenly Father. My sister and brother-in-law are beautiful believers in Jesus and amazing parents. We were gathered around their table. So our thanksgiving would be shared. As worship. Thank you, my amazing sister.

As much as I love and validate the beauty of my sister's heart, I froze on the inside, begging, No. Please. Don't put me through this. Don't sit me around a table of couples, force me to listen to everyones great joy and delight, thankful for one another, romantically gazing into each others eyes, and put me on the spot, as though I'm supposed to be able to think very clearly and spiritually in this contextual circumstance...

The people shared. It was as I suspected. I am so thankful for my family. I am so thankful for my spouse. We are so blessed to be a happy and healthy family... My emotions ranged from intense anger, thoughts of, How dare they put me in this position, to humiliation, knowing it was perfectly natural that they should all gather around a table and give thanks for each other on Thanksgiving Day (of course there were other things people were thankful for, too). I thought, I can't do this, Lord. I can't listen to this and then put on a good Christian smile that says, I am so happy and blessed and am thankful for... my family? Well, I am thankful for my family, but in the same way as these people around this table!  My turn came rather quickly and I quickly mumbled a Yes, I'm thankful for my family. I refused to elaborate for sheer lack of anything kind and/or meaningful to share, and continued to listen in torturous pain as they all happily poured out their thanks before the Lord. There was not a mention of my late husband.

The last to share was my Mom, who ever sensitively shared, maybe somewhat on my behalf, her sadness at Lynn's absence, but her joy and thanksgiving for her family... Thank you, Mom. Thank you for saying his name. Thank you for acknowledging my pain.

There, in that magnificent room, with the father seated honorably at the head of the table, the wife properly situated by his side, a beautiful meal spread before us, everything beautiful and healthy and lovely... I felt sick. And I needed to weep. Instead of finding the strength to share my grief with my family, I quickly exited the room at the first decently respectful opportunity, left the house to cry in the grass outside. There I wept. I shook with anger and grief until my brother came out to hold me, another always in tune to my heart and sensitive to my grief.

I am safe with my family. I am dearly loved and cared for. Still, sometimes it is hard to speak up. How do I compete with the surrounding gladness, especially on a day like Thanksgiving? I don't like being put on the spot. I don't like feeling like I have to teach everyone around me about grief. I don't want to have to explain why I can still have a thankful heart even though in that particular moment I couldn't think of a single thing I was actually thankful for. All I saw was happy couples. Blessed families. While mine remains broken and wounded, my heart empty of that kind of joy...

And I am thankful. But I also lament. Still, I worship. And, I serve. I am still a member of one body, the Body of Christ, and I surrender my life to Him wholeheartedly.

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