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A New Perspective on Thanksgiving

November 28, 2009

It was about ten years ago that I experienced one of the most significant events in my life.  Shortly after I graduated from college, I went camping in the Red River Gorge with a group of fraternity brothers.  Late that night, one of our friends took a walk to get something from the car, which was only a couple hundred yards from our campsite.  He never came back.

We chose the campsite because it was relatively flat. We all got some basic gear from beforehand, you know how guys get with new gadgets.  We knew there would be drinking so we wanted to stay far away from the Gorge’s many cliffs.  Unfortunately, we didn’t account for one that was out of sight from the trail and was hidden by dense trees.

The next morning, we broke into groups and scoured the area to no avail. After a couple of hours, we decided to send the few girls who were with us back to campus while we called the forest service for help.  A few hours after that, we knew that our friend was dead.  It was his 21st birthday.

The forest service arranged for a hearse to collect our friend and take him to the funeral home.  We had called his sister, who met us at the park.  Still in our clothes that reeked of campfire, we all went to the funeral home to meet the rest of his family.

As horrible of an experience as it may have been to lose a friend in such a tragic way, we knew that the impact on his mother would be infinitely more painful.  And while I am certain that it was, she was still concerned with comforting us.

She said something to us that I’ve carried with me every day since then.  “As soon as you get home, call your mother and tell her how much you love her.”

Unfortunately, it seems that we only truly take stock of how much we love and appreciate the people in our lives when death reminds us that those people will not always be around.

The words of my friend’s mother constantly echo in my ears but their poignant meaning was renewed yet again last week when a co-worker’s husband died.  At the funeral home, I saw the body of a man who was cherished by many but whose human ears would never again hear the words, “I love you.”  It reminded me to cherish all those who I am fortunate enough to have in my life.

The holidays are always a time of stress and of getting caught up with the superficial.  Many will dread having to visit relatives and tolerate the little annoyances inherent in any family.  But at some random moment during this Thanksgiving break, take a few seconds to stop, look around, and think about how much you really care about these people.  Take a mental snapshot of all that is going on around you.  View the scene as you would if it all had been taken away from you and you prayed for just one more chance to have it all back.  Because someday, you will.

Sometimes it is easy to forget what being truly thankful means and how good it feels.  This year, remember.

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