the last thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2011 was the last holiday my mother lived to see. I hear Grandma’s voice in my head (regrets are as useful as tits on a bull, Katy) but still, I find them creeping in, uninvited guests that stay long past their welcome.

It was a special day, the last Thanksgiving.  My coworkers gave us a full Turkey dinner, more than enough delicious food to feed the family for days on end.  Mom was strong enough to eat a little and enjoy the company of her dear ones. The day was full of gifts from start to finish.

But I was tired.  I was angry.  I was overwhelmed with the relatively simple task of reheating our Thanksgiving feast from AJ’s. I tried to coordinate everything seamlessly, and never before had it been so difficult to ensure all the food was simultaneously hot to be served for our 10 or so family members.  I had mixed success, and it frustrated me. Thank god I didn’t try to actually cook. When I wasn’t feeling full of gratitude and surrounded by love from all directions, Thanksgiving found me to be an irritable bitch.

I know Thanksgiving also carried sadness for Mom. She always loved to cook huge meals for her family members during the holidays, and she always make it look easy.  Her eyes grew glassy when she saw me running around the kitchen and she said softly “I’m sorry I can’t help.”

I was sorry too, profoundly sorry.

I know I told her that day that I loved her, I was grateful for her.  But I was fearful, and the months of protracted loss had chewed me up and left my insides looking like a seasonal squash.  I was angry that I was sharing my last Thanksgiving with my mother.  I had lots of expectations to let go of- years ahead of beautiful holiday dinners, perfectly prepared, cooked with her at my side.  I did the best I could do, but I wish that I could have released, let go, allowed myself to be rooted in that special day, that special moment, and feel the joy of having her with me, of being her daughter.

She knew my heart as well as anyone, and she knew I loved her.  I just wish I could have done things differently. It would have been more enjoyable for everyone involved.

This Thanksgiving I miss her, but I have also done some recovery. I have a wonderful life, full of blessings.  Today my heart isn’t like a the limp guts of a stringy squash; rather my heart is full of gratitude for a multitude of things, but especially gratitude that my life started with this tremendous woman, that I was able to know her and call her “Mom” and share my life with her for 31 years.

Thanks for the wonderful memories, Mom.  You were incredible.

the last Thanksgiving, 2011

16 thoughts on “the last thanksgiving

  1. Professions for PEACE

    Beautiful honest writing… but there goes my makeup! Seriously though, I thank you for this touching post. I lost my mother to cancer a few years ago, and your post helps me remember that at least I had her for over 40 years. Bless your heart. I love this post! Happy Thanksgiving to you dear heart. ~Gina

  2. Martha Goudey

    Your mother is/was beautiful and you are doing well on your first holiday anniversary.
    This is my second Thanksgiving without mom. Unlike you, I had many Thanksgivings with mom, so many that I began to chafe, wanting it “different.” Now it is different, and oh what I wouldn’t give to cook one more Turkey for her replete with trimmings. I even laid a place setting for her with her rose-colored china (reminded me of what is placed before your mom in the photo), sterling flatware and embroidered tablecloth….and we aren’t even eating at home. Blessings as you navigate today and the coming weeks and months.

    1. bornbyariver Post author

      What a beautiful idea, the empty place setting. Symbolizes both the presence and absence of our loved ones. Wishing you peace during the second Thanksgiving without your mom.

  3. Kathy

    Great picture and post. We celebrated our last Thanksgiving with my mom in 2007. At the time we had no idea it would be our last Thanksgiving with her. A few weeks later my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She died 11 days before Thanksgiving in 2008. Like your mom, mine loved to cook a feast for her family. I’ve kept some of her traditions for the holidays, but Thanksgiving is a different holiday now. I miss my mom and all she did for us. I miss her cooking. I wish you all the best today. Take care.

  4. Allison

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    I was having similar thoughts this afternoon…this is my second Thanksgiving without mom, and while I still miss her terribly, it's not as acute. I'm trying to find small moments of joy by carrying out the traditions we carved out for ourselves over the years. Even though I'm doing those things alone, I'm still doing them. And I, too, am thankful that I had such a wonderful mother for as long as I did. We were and are truly blessed. 🙂

  5. kjpaints

    Such a touching memoir. I understand every moment and every thought of that last Thanksgiving. My last Thanksgiving with my mother in 2006 was very similar. Regrets are brutal but they will fade. It’s taken this long for my family to finally, truly enjoy the holidays again. Yesterday was actually fun even though my mother’s absence still takes up so much space. Hang on to the gratitude you feel for the time you had with her. She’s beautiful. You are blessed.

  6. Heart To Harp

    That first holiday without our lost ones is so hard. I hope you can remember that if you could have done thanksgiving 2011 any differently, with any more skill or grace, you would have. The photo shows the love was bountiful that day, and that is all that really matters.

  7. rgingrichjones

    Thank you for your lovely post. This was my first Thanksgiving without my Mom, whose presence I was graced with on this earth for 30 years. Last Christmas was our last holiday together, and we didn’t know yet that she was sick with cancer – I know this Christmas is going to be a hard day too, and appreciate hearing from others who have gone through similar journeys of loss and recovery.


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