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My parents are dead – So how can I be grateful at Thanksgiving?

The pandemic. The political tension. The demands of social distancing on a holiday designed for togetherness. I thought I'd republish last year's blog this Thanksgiving - because we all could use a refresher on being grateful when circumstances are pulling us apart.

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Recipe Keepsakes: Tasting the Grief, Love at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the time of year that we taste our grief.

Literally. I mean, no one makes homemade cornbread dressing like Mom. But … she isn’t here anymore to make it. It cannot be the same …

So, like any perfectly sentimental daughter, I always make dressing like Mom made dressing. I use her recipe. But still there’s that missing ingredient. Mom.

Photo by Askar Abayev on

That’s the part where the grief dribbles like escaping gravy onto the white cloth atop the Thanksgiving table.

But the holiday need not be completely ruined. Because Thanksgiving is also the time of year that we taste the love.

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Grief & Healing in the Little Things

I ordered four catfish filets, a handful of shrimp and a bag of ice, unaware that I would be transported from the Kroger fish counter across time and death.

The moment happened when an employee awkwardly handed me the plastic bag of ice, open. I held the bag by its ends and twirled it. I then twisted it and tied it.

I learned this from my dad. This is the way he always secured vegetables, fruits and other grocery foods inside flimsy plastic bags. Easy peasy.

Photo by Shiny Diamond on

For a moment, it was kind of like he was with me again, grocery shopping like we used to do. But it was much more than that.

Do you ever smile when you mimic your parent? Do you feel proud, like you’ve somehow done something cosmically important?

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Is It Okay to be In Between?

I think of the pandemic as the time in between. It is the period after normal has ended but a new normal has yet to be established. It is the time life is still dizzingly out of control.

I feel as if I’ve been holding my breath, waiting to resurface from the depths of a vast ocean. I’m longing for a gulp of air now. I’m tired of a life on pause. I want in between to stop.

Thinking this way mirrors grief. Yes, I recognized it early on. My mood during the pandemic reminded me of the months after my parents’ deaths. After we’ve lost someone, we intellectual recognize we cannot return to normal. But our hearts are still there in the past. And we don’t yet know what life will look like for us next month or next year.

Photo by Francesca Zama on

It is the time in between.

What about you? Are you yearning for what used to be? Are you in between a beloved past and a fearful future? And is this what we’re supposed to be doing? Is it okay to be “in between”?

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