My father was a busy corporate executive who often had to be out of town, so when he was home for Thanksgiving we were delighted. Dad loved his family, was a good listener, had an energetic sense of humor and a deep spirituality. He cared about people of all races, religions, and political persuasions. He shared fully this thoughts and experiences around our family dinner table–even asking my brother and me our opinions on issues far exceeding what most junior and high school kids could wrap their heads around. I especially loved Thanksgiving, not just because of the holiday itself but because it meant Dad would be home.
One particular Thanksgiving when I was in high school was my favorite. We’d come back home from church (our denomination holds Thanksgiving Day services at which everyone is welcome to share gratitude) and I had just finished making artistic place cards, setting the table with our best china, silver, and special floral bouquet, as well as serving as mom’s sou-chef in the kitchen. We were about to sit down to Mom’s sumptuous repast when the phone rang. It was for dad. After about fifteen minutes he came into the dining room where we sat awaiting the carving of the aromatic turkey and the passing of Mom’s many delicious side-dishes (especially her perfect gravy and hot homemade rolls). But I saw in Dad’s eyes that our lovely holiday was about to be interrupted. Dad simply said he needed to leave now and did not know when he’d be back. He gathered his books and keys and left.
I knew my mother understood what Dad was about, but no details were offered to my brother and me. We knew it must be something important or he would never leave us on Thanksgiving. As the day wore on, I helped with kitchen clean up, then went to my room and drew, hoping dad would be home soon. “He’ll likely be back for a turkey sandwich by supper time,” I mused. “We’ll have our good conversations then.”
But he wasn’t. It was difficult not to feel sad.
Sometime the next day, Dad appeared. He spent a good bit of the day in his den–that usually meant prayerful studying. We saw him a bit more Saturday and had our usual rip-roaring good time. Sunday, we went to church.
After the service, I waited in the foyer, standing beside my dad who was caught up in conversations with church members. Then an elderly couple came up to him, their faces aglow, as if beaming in extra sunlight, their hands eagerly reaching out to take my dad’s hands in theirs. Smiling through tears of gratitude, they looked up into his eyes and profusely thanked him for coming to their home on Thanksgiving Day.
In the car going home, Dad shared his special Thanksgiving Day experience. The elderly couple’s wife had phoned Dad because her husband was passing on; his breathing struggled, then signs of death apparent. She called Dad because she knew his unwavering faith in God had led to healings. Dad had her put the phone to her un-responding husband’s ear. Dad spoke the truth to him, firmly declaring that God is Life that the Christ is ever-present to heal. Knowing my father, I’m sure he had much to share to uplift their thought from fear to a spiritual understanding of Life, praying from the Bible and Christian Science textbook (those two books are the pastor of our denomination, not person). Dad stayed with the couple through the night continuing his prayerful work until all was well. He returned home profoundly thankful. I will never forget as a teenager seeing that couple walk up to my dad in the church foyer, so strikingly thankful for the healing they’d experienced. Dad had healings many times throughout his life, not just for himself but in helping others, too. No, more correctly, I would say healing was how he lived his life. From his unexpected birth through high school football injury to business problems, to car accident, to our childhood illnesses, and more, healings filled his life and ours. Dad understood that by loving as Jesus loved, we’ve the capacity to understand and experience healing as Jesus demonstrated.
For me, since that particular Thanksgiving Day, this holiday has not been just about a turkey dinner around a happy family table but about being grateful that healing is possible for all of us to the degree we follow the words and works of Christ Jesus.
Artwork: Bouquet with Ladle, framed watercolor,15 1/2″ x19 3/4″, $475. The simplicity of this painting–depicting an exquisite antique brass ladle resting beside a flowing floral arrangement on a vintage patterned tablecloth–speaks to the guileless potency of gratitude.