It seems I’m never able to capture with a camera what I see with my eyes and my heart, so I have to edit photos to adjust lighting, crop useless space and cut out the evidence of a thoroughly lived-in home. Tonight I looked at my loves asleep on my sofa and instinctively grabbed my phone to capture the moment. There was no profound reason for taking the picture other than it made me incredibly happy. When I looked through my phone to take the picture, my only goal was to get all three of them in the shot, because that’s what mattered. Not the messy living room, crumpled up area rug, or the three pairs of shoes lying on the floor. Just the kids. All three of these gifts were so completely comfortable and at peace that they allowed themselves to rest. I saw what motivates me each day to live a life well-lived and it wasn't until I started to crop the photo that I saw the empty place where Hagen would be sleeping just as soundly if he were here.
It caught me off guard that I hadn’t noticed the emptiness when I took the picture, and sat staring at it expecting sadness to creep into the place in me that should be just as empty as that place on that sofa. It didn’t come. Guilt at the lack of emotions crept in, and I wondered what was wrong with me that I did not notice my son’s absence. Surely, this sweet moment at the beginning of Thanksgiving week should elicit at least a small measure of grief, shouldn’t it? I waited for it, I willed it, I was prepared for it but it didn’t come. As I tried to focus on that empty spot, my eyes were continuously drawn to the peaceful faces of Weston, Tyler and Declan. And then, in His comforting way, the Lord showed me that my focus wasn’t on what was missing. Instead it was on what was in front of me. That my loss did not have to take priority, and that it was ok to appreciate and acknowledge the joy.
I haven’t forgotten that my first born son won’t be here Thursday, or the fact that my grandson will experience his very first Thanksgiving without his daddy here to show him off. Those are things you don’t forget or overlook, but Thanksgiving, to me, has always been about family, and I still have one. A beautiful little family that I’m anxiously waiting to make new memories with. The traditions will be the same and the menu won’t change. All of the things we've done on Thanksgivings prior, will continue, but this year we will add to those traditions by remembering Hagen, sharing laughter and stories of his ridiculousness, and being thankful that we had him as long as we did. There may be an empty place at the table, but there will not be emptiness.
As the countdown to Thursday begins, absences will be felt in homes across the country. One less plate will be set, one less hug will be given and received, one less smile will be seen. There will be an empty chair at the table, and many will be facing their first holiday “without”. It will understandably be difficult for many to be thankful. My prayer for all of those living through a loss this Thanksgiving is that you allow yourself to have moments where the joy overshadows the sadness, and that emptiness has no place setting at your table. I imagine Thanksgiving in Heaven is everyday and that the table is more elaborate than anything we can create here.
Enjoy the day. Enjoy the parade. Enjoy the food and the football. Enjoy the family before you.
Don’t focus on what is missing, instead focus on what is before you, even if it’s only for the day.