Thursday, November 23, 2017

A different kind of holiday memory

Shortly before the actual holiday, I was given the opportunity to share something about a Thanksgiving that was memorable to me. It happened in front of my fellow Toastmasters members at our recent meeting, during a session called Table Topics, where you are asked to speak spontaneously in response to a question. Nobody is prepared for the query, but I was even less prepared for the first thing that popped in my head as an answer.

“This is going to sound pretty ironic,” I began slowly, “but the Thanksgiving that was most memorable to me was ten years ago this Thanksgiving while I was in the hospital with a diagnosis of Leukemia.”

Naturally, there was a hush in the room. I knew I had to continue because that’s a heck of a way to start off a memory. For the next few minutes I was transported back to my hospital room where Spouse, our girls, my sister and my parents gathered around a long table the nurses had enthusiastically set up when they heard about our impending meal. A traditional Thanksgiving dinner had been prepared by my family in my little kitchen at home and driven to Maine Medical Center where I had been receiving treatments for two weeks by then. The enticing scent of turkey and stuffing filled the room, providing almost a sense of normalcy to the setting. We sat together eating, joking, soaking in our closeness.

This story wasn’t an easy one to tell because that Thanksgiving was the last memory I had of a lengthy hospital stay. There were complications, an unexpected, rapid decline, and a long, arduous road to recovery. But recover I did, and there I stood last week acknowledging this odd anniversary to a room of acquaintances who were probably expecting a story about an uncooked turkey or a snowstorm that threatened dinner. A feast in the confines of a hospital room would not have been on their radar.

Thanksgiving of 2007 was not my finest hour, but it was my family’s greatest, most selfless act of love and support. Their presence and all they did to find the positive in a difficult situation was the greatest gift I have ever received.

Every November, crisp fall scents and plummeting temperatures are a penetrating reminder of where I was then. I don’t always remember to be grateful for all that I have when those flashes of the past resurface. But this year it’s different, thanks to a simple question. Ten years is significant and worth celebrating. Ten years makes it worth remembering.

By the time you have a chance to read this, Thanksgiving may be over. The parade, the food, the family gatherings and the football games will already be history. Maybe you sat around your table a few days ago and shared what you are thankful for. Perhaps you dug into buttery mashed potatoes along with loved ones you only get to see a few times a year at most, grateful for this gathering. Hold on to that feeling of gratitude a little longer. Hold onto the memory of siblings arguing over the last piece of pie, the smell of burned potatoes, or a crooked cornucopia the six-year-old made for a centerpiece. You may be thankful for something only you can understand. It could happen… just as it did ten years ago when thankfulness surrounded a hospital room.

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