Fifty years can feel like a long time.
This week Eunice realized that she’s done the same thing for a long time – have Thanksgiving dinner with her mother. It started the first week I was born. My mother had just come home from the hospital after giving birth to me (I was born within a few hours of the assassination of JFK, but that’s another story). Mom hadn’t really had time to defrost the turkey but she did what she could and that was my first Thanksgiving.
Even when I lived on campus during my university days, I would still come home to have Thanksgiving dinner with Mom. After marriage, we invited her to our place, adding rice and stir-fry veggies to the turkey, mashed potatoes, healthy green bean casserole, stuffing and gravy we prepared. Our girls grew to love the baked sweet potatoes smothered in an orange juice and marshmallow glaze which Mom made for us every year. For many years, even after my sisters and I became adults, one or two of them would join in the meal.
Our oldest daughter learned how to make a pie crust, roll it out and use an old family recipe for apple pie. As the girls grew and we began to invite more guests to join us for dinner, we added pumpkin pie and a chocolate mousse pie. We’d set the table carefully, adding extra chairs and assembling an extra table, creatively folding cloth napkins and neatly practicing penmanship on the name cards for each place setting. Our daughters would prepare to share the story of Thanksgiving with the students from around the world who joined us. Each plate would get three corn kernels for us to roll around in the palm of our hands until it was our own turn to share the three things for which we were thankful. Au or I would give thanks to our heavenly Father for our meal and our guests and then we would enjoy our meal together.
We’d often take walks in the brisk November air, or perhaps even rake leaves, while our food settled or begin a game of Apples to Apples while dinner dishes were being washed by hand (Au would always say, “We don’t need a dishwasher. You have me.”). Our evening would end with everyone getting a taste of multiple types of desserts and then our guests would begin to leave or we would drive some college students back to campus.
But it all changed in 2018 when my mother died. Last year, on our first Thanksgiving in Asia, I thought I knew what the secret to our family’s tradition was – preparing a special meal with others and sharing thanks. But this year, it just didn’t seem worth the effort to keep this tradition, realizing that Mom was an essential part of that tradition who just couldn’t be replaced with new activities or new friends.
Was the tradition having the meal with Mom or was it pausing to give genuine thanks to a generous God?
Then last night our organization honored a husband-wife team by celebrating their faithful service in Asia for 40 years. Friends and colleagues shared photos, stories, and testimonies of lessons learned and challenges faced. With our faith community, we relived meaningful memories and mentoring moments.
It is the nature of all things filled with life to change. I don’t think I’ll ever like change. I can mourn what is past, but I can also choose to focus on what matters eternally. I’m thankful, genuinely thankful, for the faithfulness of this couple and how the Lord reminded me that it’s okay to mourn what is lost, without necessarily trying to replace it. I choose to keep my eyes fixed on the one who offers eternal hope and look to Him for all my needs. I pray the same for you.