Gratitude and Mourning

Lots of deep thinking happening this week, especially today as I have been around Jerry, his mom, and one of his sisters as they spent their first Thanksgiving without the good man they loved so much, Jerry’s father.

Jerry’s oldest sister had other members from her branch of the family tree missing and simply didn’t feel like celebrating. However, she showed up and ensured that some of her grand kids were there, which Luna appreciated.

Jerry was quiet, as usual, but did tell me he was thinking about his dad.

I listened to our hostess talk, at length, about the health concerns of her father, Jerry’s uncle. While she kept things light and matter of fact, I sensed her awareness that his health is failing and it is an inevitable matter of time before his chair is empty.

Jerry’s mom carried herself calmly and with her usual quiet dignity and assurance. Yet, I could see the toll these past nine months have taken on her.

I only connected with my family via text and Facebook, until I got to converse with my son tonight. LaLa celebrated with her boyfriend and a friend and seemed quite happy. The conversation with Marco was only mildly awkward a couple of times. He was hesitant to share what his experience was like in celebrating this day with his future in-laws and others, because our Thanksgivings, while he was growing up, were never the happy, wholesome Rockwellian ideal, quite the opposite, in fact.

The fact of the matter is that I am profoundly grateful my adult children are learning to move beyond the damage of our mutual pasts. It means that, somehow, I have been able to start changing and impacting generational cycles for them and future generations, even if I am still struggling with those things myself. It means they, to some degree, learned and gained in their lives through the struggles and challenges in mine. It means that my life legacy to them isn’t 100% damage and destruction, as I have believed for so long. Even if no one else sees this, I now can.

Someone posted a picture of a monument in Plymouth dedicating our national day of Thanksgiving as a National Day of Mourning for the indigenous people and their descendants, who were so damaged by the settling of this land by European refugees and opportunists.

Being the epitome of what it means to be a born American, when asked what I am, I tend to say, “Heinz 57: English, Irish, French, German, Native American, and Mexican.” I have ancestors on all sides of the oppression equation. Living the life I’ve lived and experiencing the things I have means that I understand how thankless Thanksgiving Day can be.

For those of us who have come from histories full of wreckage, destruction, and damage, especially those who have come from generations of oppression, prejudice, and marginalization, it can be incredibly difficult to recognize the things we have to be thankful for.

The temptation to hold onto the hurt and mourn the past can be incredibly strong, especially if our loss and suffering has been compounded by recent events in our personal lives and in the world.

Some of us find it difficult to celebrate and rejoice in the good and abundance we have, because so many others are suffering in such profound and significant ways.

Sometimes we need to see and hear what others are thankful for and know that even the darkness has gifts to offer.

Sometimes we need to share what we are grateful for, that others may be encouraged.

Either way, if today is a day of mourning for you and you see little to be grateful for, try borrowing the gratitude of another to help ease your burden. Likewise, if you have much to be thankful for be compassionate, patient and understanding of those in your midst who are struggling with thankfulness.

The following was written and shared by a friend of mine on Facebook today, and perfectly sums up my thoughts:

Today we remember
Those who are hungry
Those who have no home
Those without family or companionship
Those with an empty place at the table and a hole in their hearts
We remember the Native People of this land whose lives were changed forever by the greed and brutality of others
We remember their descendants. Many of whom still struggle for place and purpose in a world that tells them to conform. To get over it.
We remember those without freedom, who live in fear of tyrants and armies
We remember those who are persecuted because of the color of their skin, or the gender they posses, or the God they love but someone else hates

We remember that we are deeply fortunate in so many ways.
We remember these things not for a sense of guilt to weigh us down, but for a sense of mindfulness and purpose that will compel us to be love and light to every creature and creation in this world.
May we partake today of good food, warm friendship, laughter and love.
And may we remember every day hereafter those that it is within our power to help.
~ written by my sweet and dear friend, C.B.


    1. Athena,
      I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this. The holiday season has always been a difficult time for me for many reasons. When I saw what my friend had posted, it gave me a catalyst for thinking about what celebrating Thanksgiving and life can be like in the midst of conflicting feelings and challenging circumstances. I read it and shared it with the friends who invited us to a Thanksgiving part 2, last night. It may be the beginnings of a different tradition in how we approach this season in the future.



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