A Thankful Thanksgiving

by | May 18, 2009 | Thanksgiving

The Sunday before Thanksgiving was a cold snowy day that made you think of the previous summer and wonder if the sunshine would come out before another week passed. I guess it was one of things that made living in Michigan a challenge. The ever changeable weather! As we gathered around the table to eat that afternoon, we were making our plans for Thanksgiving dinner and who was bringing what. We always tried to invite a new family from church over, thinking perhaps they would be alone on Thanksgiving in a new area.

“Mom,” our youngest son said, “did you notice Mrs. Mitchell sitting in church today? She was blowing into her handkerchief and wiping her eyes.”

Our daughter said she thought it must be because her son had just passed away. I was stunned. My husband and I looked at one another and asked how she knew about this—we hadn’t heard a thing! We knew about her son, but only that he had been wounded in the war and didn’t live in the area.

“I guess she hasn’t seen him for a while; he lived some place in another state, and I only knew about it because René’s dad was helping her with the burial arrangements,” our daughter finished.

I thought about the prayer chain that was used for everything from an illness with a newborn to someone who had been diagnosed with cancer, and yet nobody had shared a thing about Mrs. Mitchell and her son. As the meal ended, I spoke with my husband, and he said he would call René’s dad and talk with him.

I knew Mrs. Mitchell wouldn’t be at the evening service that night, as she hardly ever ventured out after dark, but something was telling me I should stop by to see her. My husband agreed; he said his telephone conversation had assured him that her son had been in and out of the hospital a number of times, and last week Mrs. Mitchell received a call from the authorities that he had fought his last battle.

“Oh dear,” I exclaimed! “How could she handle this alone? I’m going over to see her right now,” I told my husband as I reached for my keys, purse, and coat. “I’ll take some of these brownies and tell her I was thinking of her and just wanted to stop by.”

The snow was still coming down as I rang the front door bell of the old Victorian house on Main Street. Mrs. Mitchell had been widowed for over 10 years, and yet she was a sweet and loving lady, always ready to help out when she could.

“Hello, dear,” a smile appeared on the kindly wrinkled older face. “What on earth are you doing out on this cold night?” She asked, ushering me into the foyer.

“I was thinking about you today, and one of the boys said he saw you in church and thought you might have a cold. I just wanted to bring some brownies by to see how you were feeling,” I gently said.

She invited me in for some hot tea, and we talked about some of the coming church functions. Then she said she’d like to share something with me. I prepared myself to listen to a mother’s heart as she bravely spoke.

Her son had been a Vietnam veteran and was battling some type of disease and emotional problems from his years during the war. He was in and out of the VA hospital in the state where he resided. She had sent him a card inviting him to have Thanksgiving and Christmas with her, as she was all alone. And then she received the call from the hospital about his death. She knew she couldn’t make the trip, and she and René’s father made the arrangements with the Veterans Administration the week before. She said he had been to see her a few months ago, and they spoke on the telephone often; but his battle had been a hard one, and she remembered their last conversation and how he looked when he had been home. She would carry that memory of him in her heart. He would be laid to rest next to her late husband.

“I’m so very sorry, Mrs. Mitchell. I only wish you had told us. We would have been over to help you in any way we could.” I felt it seemed like such a weak thing to say in view of the situation. “I do want you to plan to be with us on Thanksgiving, this Thursday—please plan to come. I don’t want you to be alone at this special time of year.”

“You know,” the silver-haired lady smiled happily, “I would love it if you and your family would be my guest and come over and have dinner with me on Thursday. When my husband was alive, we used to have several families from the area share that day with us, and I would enjoy thinking about the dinner, making pies, salads, cakes, and the turkey. Will you say yes?—it would make me so happy.” She was practically gleaming with excitement. I could see her mind was reliving memories that were special to her.

“Well, we have invited a new family from the church to come to our house for dinner, but I know they’d enjoy sharing the day with you too—and we certainly would. But are you sure you’re up to this crowd?” I was thoughtful of her doing too much.

“Of course, I am. I’ve entertained all my life and will enjoy doing this too. And it will give me something happy to think about. Actually, I’ll be ‘thankful’ to you for joining me on Thanksgiving.” I knew what she was saying; and after talking a few minutes more, I said “goodnight” and told her I’d be in touch.

When I arrived home and told the children about going to Mrs. Mitchell’s for Thanksgiving dinner, they were all happy. Our oldest son said she had a great hill for sledding, and our daughter loved her big, old house and said Mrs. Mitchell was like a grandmother. I thought about our small home, but am always happy to share with anyone who could come, and how happy Mrs. Mitchell looked when thinking about her Thanksgiving plans.

Later that evening as my husband and I were talking, I said it would be different not to get up early in the morning and put a turkey in the oven, but how Mrs. Mitchell had actually said she would be “thankful” if she could host the dinner at her home. I was grateful that, at a sad time in someone’s life, having a crowd for Thanksgiving dinner would help. Even in the cold snowy weather I felt the warmth from an older woman who, in the face of loss, was reaching out to share with others.

Diane Dean White Thelamb212@aol.com 

Diane is a freelance writer, an author, columnist and the editor of HeartCatchers. She and Stephen have been married for over 35 years and reside on the Carolina Coast. They are the parents of three grown children and three grand-gals. You may visit Diane’s website at www.DianeDeanWhite.com


A Thankful Thanksgiving