Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thanksgiving Through Tears: The First Year of Grief

Holidays were always special in our family. I'm so grateful that my parents gave us so many precious holiday memories as I face the first year of holidays without Mom and Dad.

Although I married and moved out of state when I was only 17, I have many happy memories of childhood Thanksgivings, where Dad spent the day in the kitchen. Mom made our everyday dinners, but Dad was the extraordinaire holiday chef in our family.

Because of work and school schedules, I didn't ever come home for Thanksgiving after I moved to Virginia. Instead, I recreated an Atkins family Thanksgiving for my kids each year. Thanks to my oldest sister, Sue, I have this photo of Dad carving the turkey at a family Thanksgiving celebration.

Whenever I count my blessings, God and family are at the top of the list. We made these gratitude leaves to decorate our Thanksgiving table last year, letting the grandkids write their own. One of the gratitude leaves I made says, "Parents and siblings," among my greatest blessings in life.

In previous years, we also made gratitude turkeys and gratitude trees. For many years, we've each shared something for which we are grateful as our Thanksgiving prayer before the meal.

Life is filled with blessings. From the food we eat to the God we praise, we have so many reasons to celebrate and give thanks every day, not just on a single day filled with turkey and all the fixings.

On this first Thanksgiving without Mom and Dad, I'm grateful that I have a four-generation photo of Mom and Dad with me, Jenny and my grandson Kyle, Mom and Dad's first great-grandchild. Our memories are precious, but photos are an extra bonus.

I'm also grateful to have photos from back in the day of each of my kids with Mom and Dad. In this photo, Jenny and Dad are playing with little people while Mom sits on one of our family's high chairs in the background.

Mom hid her face from the camera, but some of my older photos caught Mom off-guard, like this photo of Mom helping Jenny walk on the windowsill at the Kansas City Airport.

On one of our many visits to Worlds of Fun, I took this photo of Lauren driving Mom in a funny car. Mom didn't ride too many of the rides, but she always enjoyed riding in these cars.

I have farewell photos from many of our visits back home, including this one when Jenny and Lauren were teens. Spending time at Mom and Dad's house will always be a precious memory to me.

Family meant so much to Mom and she passed that sentiment on to all of us. Family gatherings are one of my favorite things in life. Whether it's just me, Kenny and the kids or our extended family, I love spending time with family.

The best thing about memories is that nothing can take them away from us. Even though I'll never see Mom on her front porch again, I'll always remember how happy it made her to sit there, watching the world go by in her corner of the world.

Jack was Mom and Dad's second grandson, born just a few years after his cousin Chris. Although Dad loved all of his grandkids, he always enjoyed spending time with his grandsons.

Dad often made funny faces for the camera, just like Jack does. Maybe it's genetic or just a guy thing, but photos like this one of Dad make me laugh.

As I gather for Thanksgiving with my children and grandchildren this year, I'll feel the presence of Mom and Dad everywhere. From the joy of holidays that Mom exuded to the day spent cooking that reminds me of Dad, I know they'll be there with me as I give thanks.

Mom and Dad and all of our beloved loved ones who have passed before us are with us always in our hearts and in our memories. Nothing can take that away.

One of Mom's favorite sayings was, "This too shall pass" and I know it's true. The first year will be the hardest year for all of us. The pain of Mom and Dad's deaths is still so deep and raw. Although we'll always miss them and the pain of their loss will always be there, the depth of the pain will lessen over time.

One of my favorite sayings is, "Life goes on and life is good." Although there's a deep sadness in my heart as I face the holidays without my parents, I choose joy. Life is good and God has blessed me with so many gifts. I will always be grateful for the gifts, especially the wonderful gift of family.

May your family be richly blessed, at Thanksgiving and always. Blogging Grandma Sandy, signing off for now.

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