A time of harvest. A time of reaping. A time of gratitude. From as far back of my lifetime as I remember Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. Undoubtedly there is a danger of sentimentality crouching at the door. I cannot associate Thanksgiving without it being bathed with memories of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and the gathering of our familes at the homes of my grandparents. Even still, the sights, sounds, and smells associated with each homeplace remain vivid in my mind’s eye.
This year’s Thanksgiving was no different in that regard. Most of my family made the trip a few hours north, driving just one of thousands of the many vehicles on the nation’s roads, with suitcases and backpacks in the car, cruising along at 70 MPH at some places, but then crawling along, tapping the brake, and our surveying license plates of vehicles with families from states who’d come to our area. This year I spotted tags from Washington, Kentucky, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and more.
The weather en route to our destination was perfect for driving–sunny and cool. But the traffic got heavy in one city about halfway there. Eventually, however, the traffic thinned again once we passed through that particular mountain city with its outdated insufficient highway system.
Then the road and the sky seemed to open again and the hills rolled gently for 75 miles across one of our most beautiful states. Finally we arrived. We saw our family members. We saw our nieces again, too, so grown now, physically matured, finishing up education at certain levels and going on for more in specialized fields.
And like other families, we ate and ate and ate. We watched sports on TV. We napped. My wife and sister-in-law walked several miles each morning. I stayed in and read a Cormac McCarthy novel I’ve read several times before, and enjoyed it as much this time as those before.
When I was about 90 pages from the end of the novel my eye sensed movement to my left, just outside the window. I laid my book on the couch, got up, and walked to the window. Several hens were walking across the front yard. They scratched leaves from the ground and pecked at food in the dirt.
We drove also to see our parents and enjoyed just being with them and speaking with them and catching up. There is something about being together, where you see one another, that cannot be replicated via Zoom, or FaceTime, or text messages.
I’m back now after many, many miles on the road. I’ve gone by the office, cleared out email, gotten my schedule laid out somewhat for the upcoming work week, and I’m already missing my loved ones.
Now it’s time to read some, offer thanks for the days of respite I’ve had, for the blessings that come from loved ones, for safety and good food and for the little reminders and glimpses of beauty (turkeys in the front yard, for example), hugging my nieces, the hospitality of family, the glory of ridgelines running parallel to the highway, the golden sun aflame for hours on the trip west at dusk, and on and on.
In church hymnody, one of my enduring favorites was penned by Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation:
That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.
Luther wrote “God’s truth abideth still.”
Gifts come and go. Seasons come and go. We are young, we age, we die. Leaves green, then brown, then fall. Then new ones come.
As my favorite book of Scripture has it, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
When I reflect upon the many reasons I continue to love Thanksgiving, it’s because I’ve been granted blessings I need only slow down to see and appreciate. God abideth. Therefore, truth abideth. Therefore, his people are to thank him for the manifold ways he blesses us. So often those blessings come via family, beauty, the embracing of the next generations, the generosity of elders and wise saints, turkey and dressing, and even the passing of hens and jakes just outside one’s window panes.
2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving’s Power Abideth Still”
Oh, the memories of Thanksgivings past. After my fathers passing, and my mother in a nursing home not remembering who we were, we convened at my father’s youngest sister’s home. My uncle would have a roaring fire in the fireplace, no matter the temperature of the day in South Georgia. Also, he was NOT a football fan so we would just sit around with our bellies very full and either talk or go for a walk around the farm. Sometime earlier in his lifetime we would arrive as he was cooking syrup. I can remember driving the small Farmall Cub in circles providing the power that ground the cane for the juice he was cooking. We poured the juice through a cloth to remove all that wasn’t juice before pouring the juice into his kettle. We each got a bottle of that “liquid gold” to take to our homes in anticipation of the biscuits. Now THAT was some good eating! Oh well, back to the meal, there was greens, there was dumplings, there was dressing ( or stuffing if you are from the North), there would also be fresh ham my aunt would have had the “butcher” procure for her. You understand that not everyone liked ham that was not smoked. You also can see that just bringing back these memories has sent me on a rambling trip. So sorry but if you have made it this far I applaud your patience. Now get a napkin and dry your chin and the corners of your mouth.
Oh, by the way, Jon, thanks for setting me off on this trip down memory lane, I love you.
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Mr. Henry, that is beautiful and deeply moving. What you dsecribed proves to me–once again–the deep and lasting power of simple life and especially of lives lived close to the earth. I know not everyone is a country boy or country girl at heart, but I could wish for nothing more. Thank you for sharing your writing. Love you, brother.