It’s in the air. In the cool mornings and again in the chilly evenings, fall is upon us, winter right around the corner. We’ve put together Halloween costumes and made trick-or-treating plans. Up next on the holiday horizon: Thanksgiving, full of family and food and, when we’re lucky, the good friends we choose as family.
In reminiscing about all the Thanksgivings I’ve had to date, one that comes to mind that gave me a new holiday perspective was just a few years ago.
In September 2012 my sister, Amanda, was inexplicably diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. In her early 30s, extremely healthy and active and with no family history, it was hard to make sense of. She needed surgery immediately which resulted in the removal of about a foot of her lower intestine and subsequently she came out of surgery with a temporary Ileostomy bag. The cancer had metastasized to both her bones and lungs. The cancer on her hip bone made it excruciating to walk and she began to use a cane, walker and wheel chair when necessary. She needed chemotherapy and radiation. Her biggest battles were her immobility due to the pain from walking and her severe weight loss. Her chemotherapy combined with the type of cancer and recent surgery were a perfect storm of inability and desire to eat.
Yet there was so much joy surrounding this horrible, life altering event. Her boyfriend, Jason, proposed to her and they set a date for December 21, 2012. That Thanksgiving my sister asked that we have a joint family holiday with her fiance’s family and ours. While some of us knew each other from hospital visits and from the waiting room during her surgery, many of us had yet to meet.
With family from Orem to South Weber, Draper makes a good mid-point for family events so I got the privilege of hosting Thanksgiving dinner for just over 30 people. With so many people coming, food assignments were doled out and ours were few and easy. My husband prepared two turkeys, I made my famous sweet potato pie. One bite and I promise, based on history, you’ll ask me for the recipe! To seat 30 people, I rearranged my living room and dinning room and was able to fit three tables that seated 10 people a piece. One of my sisters had the idea of fresh flowers in Mason jars tied with ribbons and with that and a little help from traditional decorations, the tables were set.
My future brother-in-law’s family arrived and we all mingled. We were having appetizers and waiting for Amanda and Jason, the guests of honor, to arrive. We checked in with them. Amanda was sick and slowly but surely rallying to come over. Dinner was ready so she insisted we eat. We blessed the food, and Amanda’s health and her and Jason’s future together were a focal point of requested blessings. Dinner was great but still no guests of honor. We had dessert and were sure they were about to arrive when Jason’s brother, Andy, got the call. They weren’t coming. Amanda had tried to be well enough all day to get out of bed and come but she just couldn’t.
I was instantly deflated. All this time and effort to make this perfect day that SHE had asked for and it was a complete failure. Then a calmness came over me and I realized this day was the perfect day that needed to be. Both families had come together and gotten to know each other. We were bound together by these two embarking on an incredible journey together. Had they been there, they would have been the center of attention, and we would have missed opportunities to get to know each other.
Life has taught me that holidays and moments are perfect not because I force them to be but because I allow them to be, no matter how they turn out, and in that is perfection.
My wish this Thanksgiving is that no matter who you spend it with or how well your plans fall into place, that you allow yourself to have the perfect day!