Are your Thanksgivings like that? Not mine. Ours is down the interstate and a few hours of “How much longer?” and “Are we there yet?”
And instead of a table full of turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce, we are just as likely to get in the car and go to a restaurant and have Thanksgiving with a few hundred of our closest friends.
The truth is, Thanksgiving has changed much in recent years for me. I love Thanksgiving, but because we now have two empty chairs, it is different and difficult. The older I get the more emotional I get. At Thanksgiving we don’t know what to do now that my dad and brother aren’t there, and we sort of stare at one another like a golfer staring at a drive headed out of bounds, “Oh gosh, what am I going to do now?”
For the first 50 years of my life, Thanksgiving didn’t change much. Mom always cooked. The Detroit Lions always lost. And we were all there. The only thing that changed was that we added people. Wives were added and children were added. Addition was
But in 2003, we started subtracting, and subtracting isn’t any fun. And now we have empty chairs and none of us know what to say or do. We tear up, eat, tear up some more, eat some more and then watch the Detroit Lions, and being football fans, we ball our eyes out at the pathetic team (they are 4-5 this season).
Thanksgiving is a lot about memory. Right? You remember events, stories and people. That’s cool. It’s OK to remember. There are several ways that we remember. We remember alone. Not bad. I have gone to the cemetery in Dothan where dad and my brother are buried, accompanied by my mom and Sheri. But, I prefer to go alone. I have conversations with my dad and brother. My faith tells me that they aren’t there, but that seems like a good place to go to talk to them. Like I said, I prefer to go alone.
We also remember collectively. All of us have basically the same memories of 9/11. Whether we watched it on CBS or CNN, we have the same searing images of planes flying into buildings, of towers collapsing, of people running for their lives from collapsing towers, and images of unspeakable grief.
Another way we remember is ritually. Whether it is the ritual of the Lord’s Supper at church, the ritual of gathering at the Veterans Park on Veterans Day, or the Fourth of July parade, we remember some of the things that are important to our faith or to our country. Remembering is important to us and gives us encouragement and hope.
And then we remember selectively. We hopefully remember the good and not the bad. The Apostle Paul said, “Forgetting those things that are behind … I press on…” (Philippians 3: 13-14). That’s great advice, but hard to do, especially during the holidays. I’ll bet Paul never had to watch the Detroit Lions play. They are hard to forget.
Davis is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Carrollton.