It seems to me that Thanksgiving is the most family centered holiday. At Christmas there’s the excitement of gifts, church programs, caroling and all that accompanies our celebration of Jesus’ birth. At Thanksgiving, it’s just family and food! With a smaller focus, changes in our families may be more obvious than at the busier holidays.
For many who have lost a loved one in the past year, this is their first holiday without that person. While our hearts are filled with gratefulness for what God has done in our lives, it’s impossible to ignore the void our loved ones have left.
As children and grandchildren grow, relocate and begin their own families, Thanksgiving celebrations shrink in size (and volume level!). While we are thankful to see God’s plan for their lives unfold, it’s impossible to ignore the void their sweet personalities leave (at least until next year’s family holiday rotation brings them back for Thanksgiving!).
There’s one other scenario that’s pretty obvious to me at Thanksgiving. If you consider the loved ones who will sit at Thanksgiving dinner with you, undoubtedly there will be one or two at that table who may not have too many Thanksgivings left. While we are incredibly thankful for every holiday we are able to spend with them, it’s impossible to ignore the fear in our hearts that this may be their last.
If I’ve described you (I’ve described myself too), I wish I could hand you a Kleenex…I need one! Instead, I’ll share this incredible passage from 1 Thessalonians. If you don’t like the Message Bible version, you can read it from the good old KJV.
And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.
And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.
I am always so encouraged after reading that passage (but I still need a Kleenex). Here are some practical ways to remember and cherish your family this Thanksgiving:
Remember the ones you’ve lost
- Make a special dish they always brought to Thanksgiving
- Share a funny store about that person
- Talk with your family about doing something to commemorate your loved one during the season (for example, your church may have something you can purchase in their memory like a luminary or poinsettia)
Cherish the ones you still have
- Make a point to spend a few moments with your elderly family members.
- Ask them about their favorite holiday memory
- Tell them how much they mean to you
- Put your phone down for the day
No matter what pain or loss you face this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to enjoy those you have with you this year while you look forward to the reunion in Heaven! Happy Thanksgiving!