Our first Thanksgiving without Nate was just as I’d expected. We went through the same preparations as usual, used the same decorations, set up tables and chairs for 24 and served the traditional menu. For me, the hardest part came during the prayer before dinner when my brother-in-law thanked the Lord for Nate. Overall, the day was successful with three generations of people present, a fire in the fireplace all day and cheerful conversation. But for me, the sparkle and joy of the day was missing.
My widow friends warned me about the difficulty of each “first” without Nate and the shift that will take place in my thinking. I’m beginning to understand what they mean. When it came time to eat today, 16 month old Skylar flipped into a meltdown, and it was a blessing to be able to take her upstairs for a time of calm and quiet. We sat on the floor in Louisa’s bedroom and played with her make-up while guests downstairs filled their plates and started to eat. It wouldn’t have bothered me at all not to have eaten Thanksgiving dinner.
When Skylar’s daddy came upstairs to take over, I rejoined the meal, but after a salad and a few bites of broccoli, I was done. It just wasn’t any fun without Nate. He always loved entertaining and started celebrating early on Thanksgiving. “Where are the cashews? Can I open them now?” Today, without him asking how many pounds the turkey was and what time the shrimp would be served, the whole effort seemed to fall flat. My cheerleader was gone.
Yet it was Thanksgiving. I wanted to be thankful. When I began looking for positives, I found them:
- Nelson’s friend Angelo, a professional chef, had joined us, bringing two giant sweet potato pies and a chocolate cake as rich as Fanny May candy. He also stepped forward to make creamy mashed potatoes and carved both turkeys with artistic flare.
- My brother and his family joined us this year when usually they spend Thanksgiving with his wife’s family. This was a special treat.
- Our next door neighbors offered as much firewood as we wanted, and the boys kept the fire going from morning till midnight.
- Someone found an old VHS video, and we all chuckled to watch a very animated Nate open birthday gifts on his 45th birthday.
- The college-age cousins, eight of them, washed all the dishes, quite a feat in a tiny kitchen without a dishwasher.
- A young family friend who’d joined us for Thanksgivings many years ago returned today, a breath of fresh air.
- And the three dogs, one from each family, got along swimmingly.
- Best of all, the Lord was present in our home today, and he was the subject of our thanks.
I was also grateful to fall into bed at 1:45 am in my new fleece ‘jammies with the thought that our first Thanksgiving without Nate was over. It would have been better if he’d been with us, but it was far from disastrous. God had gently given us a peek into our new normal while assuring us, “You will make it, because I’m going with you.”
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)