So. Here we are. I’m not sure how it’s possible that a whole year has passed. It still seems incomprehensible to me that it’s already been a year, and at the same time it’s only been a year.
Thanksgiving Day, November 28, will mark the first anniversary of Don’s death. Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday because it’s all about family and friends and food – his three favorite things. (OK, maybe we could throw baseball in there…) We will be celebrating this year the way we always have – with a house full of people, chaos in the kitchen, all the fixings, football on TV, a jigsaw puzzle on the coffee table, stories around the fire pit in the backyard. I’m not at all sure how we’ll make it through the day – but somehow we will. There will be laughs and memories and tears. And Don will be right here with us.
I don’t have to look too far to see what there is to be thankful for this year. Patrick Gallagher is home from Afghanistan, after being deployed for seven months. Andrew and Scarlett are settling in to jobs and life on the west coast. Molly has a new boyfriend who I think the world of (and I think Don would approve), and Carrie has moved out with some friends to a cute little house about fifteen minutes away. Don would be so very proud of all of them.
Yes, Thanksgiving is around the corner. In some ways it seems like yesterday, and in some ways it feels like forever ago. Forever since Don sat in this chair that I’m sitting in right now as I type this. Forever since he made me a cup of coffee in the morning. Can it possibly be a year ago that we were cooking dinner together, or taking the dog for a walk? Forever since he scribbled “focus on the good” on a yellow note pad in the hospital. A year ago life was forever fractured.
But somehow it just feels right that this first anniversary of his death is on the day that we stop to give thanks – because there is so much about his life to be grateful for. Don had an ability to see things in life that many of us could not. He was an observer. Words were his gift to us, and he shared them in so many forms – Christmas letters, scripts, emails, movies, postcards, blog posts. And don’t forget he could text faster than a fourteen year old girl. He had no patience for stories that were too long or jokes that weren’t funny. He was always the fun captain, and he shared his creativity and humor in so many ways. His strength, both physically and emotionally, as we went through his often unbearable cancer journey was remarkable. He was a loyal friend in the truest form. His relationship with our kids was unique to each one of them, and he shared his wisdom with them that I miss every single day. Life with him was fun – because he truly enjoyed it. I’m grateful that for thirty years I was able to share this extraordinary adventure of life with him.
A friend told me many months ago that someday I would be able to see that the bitter and the sweet in life can co-exist. I’m not sure I believed that a year ago, but I’m getting a glimpse of it these days. Through this maze of grief I am beginning to see that there is so much to be thankful for amidst the unbearable sadness of Don not being here with us. My friends and family have stood with me and stayed with me this year when I could barely get out of bed in the morning. You have prayed for us and prayed with us. You have continued to send postcards and notes and emails. I’m grateful for this therapeutic space to share my thoughts. All of this has meant the world to me. As Don said in one of his scripts, “God inhabits the bitter and the sweet”. How very true.
Don’s “band of brothers” will be getting together this evening at our local steakhouse to toast and remember him, and I’ll stop by and have a drink with them. It will get loud and rowdy and most likely a little out of control. (Last time a cell phone was thrown into the fireplace.) These men fiercely loved my husband. Talk about gratitude.
Two years ago Don wrote a blog post about Thanksgiving and I’ll share the link here. We will be reading it around our table this year, and I encourage you to share it on Thanksgiving if you’d like. Have a gin and tonic in his honor. Give your family an extra hug. Don taught us that relationships are what life is about, even the hard ones. Listen to each other. Laugh. Appreciate the many blessings you have that you may not even be aware of. Realize that each one of us, and every day we have together, is a gift from God.
Here’s to you, Donald. Happy Thanks Giving.