Thanksgiving During Times of Tragedy

Thanksgiving. Typically a time in our lives to reflect on our lives and what we have to be thankful for.  This year, I found myself wrestling with the task. Yes—this year it was a task. A chore. Something negative at first. I found myself weepy.  Contemplating losses that occurred this year. Which led me down the road to dwelling on other losses over the years.  Then I was in a full fledged meltdown over tragedies over the last 50 years of my life.  Yes, it spiraled pretty quickly and became quite the dramatic event. 

We are using our daughter and son in law’s tree-I was able to find some ornaments at a thrift store, the wool character’s at Home Goods and surprisingly, the Precious Moments plates survived falling through the attic ceiling in a Rubbermaid container.
YES, the tree is above the kitchen cabinets out of Millie’s ‘puppy wants to destroy everything reach!’

Fast forward a few weeks later. What did I do to dig out of the pit? I started to think about our pastors message a few weeks ago. He read the following verse—

This God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord proves true;

He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. Psalm 18:30

I have to admit when the teaching started I had a cynical attitude. The message was about how when we follow God’s way we don’t suffer the same outcome or consequences as when we go our own way. Okay, I understand consequences to decisions I make that are contrary to God’s way, but what about the part where God is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him? I literally asked God point blank, “if You are a shield to those who take refuge in you then WHY did we lose everything? Why did we lose Ella and Esther? Why did we lose all the family heirlooms I have manically cared for over the past years? Weren’t you supposed to be a shield to protect us?” I heard God whisper to me, “I did protect you. You weren’t home when the fire took everything.”  I stopped in my tracks. Wow. Perspective. God is right.

I had just gotten home from a four day visit to my aunt and uncle’s home. Typically for me once I am home from a long trip there’s no way I am leaving the house until I have mentally and physically recovered from the trip. Yet that morning I was up, dressed and out the door to do stuff by 9:15am. Ella resisted me putting her out in the dog run and gave me that brown eyes so so sad look.  I held Ella’s face in my hand and said, “I know girl, I just got home but I promise I’ll be right back and spend the rest of the day with you!”  I didn’t get to keep my promise to her. By 12:15pm, a mere 3 hours later, we received the call the house was fully engulfed. Our next door neighbor, our neighbor across the street and neighbor behind us were all home and NO one knew our house was on fire until someone driving by saw that it was completely involved.  Who knows if I was home what would have happened. God was a shield to us and protected us.

May 21, 2021

I continually remind myself of this truth when I am overwhelmed of the loss we have endured. Two years ago I went all out and put a Christmas tree in each room of our house and decorated each with a theme. Today, Christmas decorations are being set up all around us and I am reminded of ornaments collected for 50+ years are now ash. Handmade Christmas gifts given to my uncle over the years that I had no idea he had even kept until we discovered them after he passed away, are now gone. Every ornament meticulously chosen for our youngest daughter over her lifetime were in the attic and hadn’t been transferred to their new home and now never be moved.  The quilt of our oldest daughters Minnie Mouse t-shirts lovingly assembled for our granddaughter to be given to her as a gift this year is gone.  So, what do I do with all this grief that bubbles up each month as my hormones try to adjust to middle age?  I have to continue to remind myself the truth. God was and is our shield.  

Truth in hand I decided to start writing down the ways that God has helped us navigate the journey we are on.  Things to truly be thankful this year. 

  1. We were able to hire an architect to draw plans for our house when most architects have wait lists over a year.
  2. We were able to sell the Marissa lot as is and walk away from having to deal with the devastation it caused us.
  3. We were able to purchase a lot in the same neighborhood from a neighbor that wasn’t planning on selling the property but did so for us.
  4. We FINALLY received a check from the mortgage company for our payoff overage. (Yes, that was a very frustrating 3 months of the process!!)
  5. We discovered those in our lives that have our backs and were there for us when the shit hit the fan. These are the most important relationships to us now.

When I look at the terrible things that have happened- I have decided there HAS to be a positive about it. So…. Here are my thoughts.

  1. Our daughter, son in law, and granddaughter moved over three thousand miles away this summer. I miss them terribly. But, if I am being honest…the timing of them moving and all the chaos in our lives has shown me it would have been impossible for me to continue driving to Tucson every other week to help watch our granddaughter for a couple days. (But knowing me I would have tried to do it and then who knows where I would be mentally)
  2. We lost everything in the fire. But we gained a new perspective not many ever receive. Watching the fire fighters and police do their jobs gave me a great appreciation of all they go through daily on their jobs. The trauma and grief they witness is overwhelming to me personally.
  3. We lost our sweet Ella… but if not for losing Ella, we would never have added Millie to our family. Millie is another 80/20 dog.  She is the best dog 80% of the time and the other 20% we ask ourselves why we have a dog.  Oh, that puppy exuberance is exhausting.
  4. The family heirlooms in our house that I treasured were a way for me to connect to those I loved and are no longer here to physically hug me.  I looked at a photo of my grandparents dining room set and thought, “you know, it’s not the ‘model’ I would have picked. Now I have the opportunity to buy items that I love because they bring joy to me somehow – not because they were handed down to me.
  5. We lost our home of the last 13 years that was perfect for our family of four but now we get to design a home that is more suited to an aging couple with a growing extended family that visits.
Minnie Mouse quilt top for our granddaughter

I will continue to press on. I will continue to tell myself the truth. I will continue to find things to be thankful for when I don’t always ‘feel’ thankful. 

What will you do when you feel like there’s nothing to really be thankful for?