My mother, Tal and I have arrived back at Mom's home after spending a portion of this week with my brother and his family in Mechanicsville VA. As I took my turn driving today, I kept my mind busy trying to recall how many Thanksgivings I've had the good fortune to spend with the Virginia Tarboxes.
Although I couldn't arrive at a firm number, as many of the family as could began gathering with them in the fall of 1989, when my sister was living in New York City, I was at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria and our parents were still at Brookgreen Gardens here on South Carolina's Waccamaw Neck. It was the perfect place to rendezvous. So, more Thanksgivings than not during the past 21 years.
The numbers who sat down for the Thanksgiving meal over the years grew and diminished depending on the year. When the nine of us circled up to offer a blessing before yesterday's feast, however, the sadness which mingled with our thanksgivings was palpable. Not only is this the first major holiday since my dad's death, but three others who were part of the early gatherings in that household are also gone: my mother's father and both of my sister-in-law's parents.
The sadness did not overwhelm the occasion. First of all, new to yesterday's circle is my nephew's darling girlfriend. A new generation is coming into its own. Second is the influence the four who have died had on everyone who held hands in that circle yesterday. We are who we are at least in part because we knew those four people; we are better for having been part of their lives. Each of them played a role in giving that circle life.
Thanksgiving was not the same without them. But, they are not entirely gone so long as we hold them in memory. Our remembering gives them life.