Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It’s like Christmas without the commercialism — a time to enjoy the company of others and be grateful for what we already have.
What I’m most thankful for this holiday season is my family.
Most of my boyhood memories of Thanksgiving are of dinners with Dad’s family at my grandparents’ house on Lee Street. Mamaw Patrick, with help from Mom and my aunts, would prepare a feast that included everyone’s favorites, and she wouldn’t sit until everyone else was seated. It was great to tell stories and catch up with relatives we didn’t see often.
One Thanksgiving with Mom’s family, though, is especially memorable. I was 13 years old. It was an unseasonably warm and bright autumn day. After dinner, the family played touch football in the vacant lot on Hilltop Drive that served as a neighborhood park.
I thought it hilarious that my cousin Eddie, who was like a big brother to me, played the game with his shoulder-length locks in pigtails.
Watching the fun and hearing the laughter, our neighbors across the street, Raymond and Elwanda Allen, said it was what family should be.
For us, however, it was bittersweet.
Mamaw Collins was battling cancer. She was the first loved one I knew who had a serious illness. But it was one of her good days, and that night, she jotted down her thoughts about it.
Nov. 22, 1973
This is Thanksgiving Night. We all went to Nett’s [Jeannette, my mother] for dinner except for Edwina and her family. We had the most wonderful time we ever had.
After dinner, all the younger ones played football and pitched horse shoes. It was a beautiful day, and the little kids played out.
All day long, I couldn’t help but wonder whether we would ever spend another Thanksgiving Day like this. All it lacked being perfect was if Winkie [Aunt Edwina] and her clan had been there.
I have to go into the hospital Thursday and have surgery, but I’m praying to God that I’ll be home so that we can have another get-together for Christmas.
I thank God for the fine family he has given us. He has been so good to all of us and not let anything bad happen to us. I would like to stay around awhile longer to make sure that they all find the Lord before it’s too late.
My grandmother, Eva Collins, did get to spend Christmas with her family. She lived until the summer of ’75, and soon after she died, my grandfather, Walter, suffered a stroke. He lived with us for a while, but needed around-the-clock care and was placed in the nearby nursing home, where my mom visited and cared for him every day, and my sister Kim and I often accompanied her.
Mamaw was only 60 when she passed away — a year younger than I am now and 20 years younger than Mom is.
It must seem strange to be so much older than a parent ever was.
I was fortunate to have had Mamaw and Papaw Patrick until they were in their mid-80s, and I’m blessed to have Mom and Dad, who are now nearly as old as my grandparents lived to be. They are still in good health and independent.
This season, I’m grateful to have my family close.
In January of last year, I left Bardstown and the best newspaper job I ever had because I wanted to be with my parents, my sister, her husband and my sweet niece, who is like a daughter to me, and other family members. I could not have known that within weeks, what has become the deadliest plague in more than a century would turn our world upside down and make us even more aware of how fleeting our time together is and of the importance of staying close.
I’m thankful that last year I was able to live with my parents at their country home in Clark County for several months and work from there doing what I love — telling people’s stories through writing and photography. And I’m thankful that, when being the only reporter for two newspapers became too great a burden, the job I have now at the courthouse came to me unexpectedly the same week I resigned. It’s the kind of work that allows me to spend more evenings, weekends and holidays with my family.
I’m not the kind of Christian who believes that “everything happens for a reason.” Sometimes things just happen. My grandmother didn’t suffer because God willed it. In this world, Jesus said, we will have troubles, but we should take heart because he has overcome the world, and so may we if we are loyal to him. The Scriptures say that “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all,” (1 John 1:15) and that everything good is a gift from God, who does not change.
In the fullness of time, the Enemy will be defeated, everything wrong will be made right, there will be no more death or mourning for the old things will have passed away, and God will make “all things new.”
That is the resurrection hope my grandmother had and that I have, and for which I am most thankful.