We were never one of those families that had hordes of people over. My parents were both only children so we had no uncles, aunts, or cousins. It was just us, (two parents, four kids, one grandmother), but it was a rare time that everyone was in one place at one time. And I wasn't alone.
It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, 1977, when I came home from school and he was gone. My dad. Now, I didn't have a close relationship with him and, for the most part, he had hardly been a part of our home life for years, but that day was it. He was gone. For good.
Two days later was Thanksgiving. What had been a favorite holiday turned into, from then on, a glaring reminder of what was no longer. Knowing that the marriage she had clung to for almost 32 years was over, my mother collapsed in grief. On the floor. Beating her fists. Screaming out her pain. While the turkey sat and I stared.
Thanksgiving was never the same. The holidays were never the same. Life was never the same. Being the youngest of the four, I was the one left at home. Year after year I would sit alone as my mother sobbed, battling my own demons and with no idea or emotional strength to battle hers as well.
God has been gracious. He has put me in a lovely family with a loving and faithful (and fun) husband and four incredible children of my own. I shouldn't be lonely. But still, sometimes, more often than I care to admit, those waves of grief and isolation wash over me. It still hurts. After thirty-six years, it still hurts so bad.
Yesterday we sang "We Gather Together" in our church's Thanksgiving service. A traditional Thanksgiving hymn that at first glance brings up images of pilgrims and Norman Rockwell (though not necessarily at the same table—that would be a meal to remember!). But right there, at the end of the first verse, God reminded me of what I can be most thankful for:
"Sing praises to his name; he forgets not his own."
The God of the universe, in the middle of all the holidays and the hoopla and the turkeys and the trappings and the families and the loneliness, in the middle of all of THAT, does not forget me. I am not alone.
Thank you, Lord Jesus. Thank you.