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Monday, Feb. 8, 2016
ThanksgivingPosted Friday, November 23, 2012, at 7:23 PM
She had been working for days--cleaning, shopping, and cooking. The atmosphere in the home had taken on a smell of its own with layer after layer of enticement filling the kitchen and spreading beyond. She stood in the kitchen and breathed a deep sigh.
Normally the simple preparations filled her with joy. She would anticipate the teasing and love that would fill the rooms as those she loved would gather for their annual feast. She smiled as the memories came to her--until with a sudden, pain filled clarity she remembered that her family would not be coming this year.
The stark reality overwhelmed her with a complete utter sense of loss that nearly knocked her off her feet. She looked around and found a chair nearby into which she collapsed. The grief of their deaths filled her with an ache so deep she felt she would simply implode with the pain and agony once again.
Deep, soul-wrenching, racking sobs escaped her as the hot, burning tears flowed from her like volcanic lava. There was neither escaping nor stopping the flow. The deepest gates of grief and longing had shattered within her and the utter agony of her soul wound its way from darkness into reality. She sat, gasping for air, as the wretched grief surrounded her--seeking to destroy her tenuous hold on life.
The angst and turmoil she could not express was forced from her. Memories, poignant and sweet were never to be increase. Those she loved were gone! They were torn from her grasp; her love; her arms--never to be seen or felt again. The pain; the incredible loss; the ache for them filled her and threatened to take her ravaged soul and body to the edge of their limits of endurance. The emptiness of her arms almost consumed her with the longing for them.
She rocked herself gently as the anguish and pain drained from her body. When her grief was finally spent, she sat--broken, with a deep emptiness that she did not know how to fill. She could not move. The energy of life had left her. She felt she could no longer cope.
How? Why? Her family was gone--taken from her. She could no longer cope without them. Everywhere she turned she saw families--parents, children, grandchildren, siblings--hold hands; laughing and joking; teasing one another; shopping together; hugging; touching . . . . Connections to those they loved surrounded her; while the reality of her aloneness silently carved her heart into tiny shreds of what it had once been.
For just one moment, one touch of those she loved--she begged God to restore them to her. It would never happen. When she saw, read, or heard news of violence, murder, suicide; she wanted to scream "HOW COULD YOU WASTE ONE PRECIOUS MOMENT!" How could she be so utterly alone? How could she go on without those she loved?
As the pain washed from her, the tears were no longer so scorching. Slowly, they changed as scenes of the love they shared came to her mind. Her family working together: Grandma sitting at the table shelling peas or pecans, or whatever needed to be done; Momma cooking over the stove with every burner filled and tantalizing smells filling the air; daddy coming in from the cold after shoveling snow, fixing a car, or carrying in groceries; sister setting the dining room table, making sure all the serving dishes where ready and the silver polished; the sounds of their singing together; the laughter; the love. She could close her eyes to see . . . smell . . . feel . . . and live those days all over again. Her mind could hear the sounds and if she could just be silent enough it was as if they were all there with her again.
Reality invaded her memories. She dried her eyes with her apron as she rushed to the kitchen. She could hear the scream of water boiling, the pressure cooker rattling, and smell the cooking meat from the oven. She had a full meal to prepare. Her husband and son would be coming in from their ranch work--ravenous. Guests would be arriving--some she knew; some she didn't. Most of their guests were alone--too far from their families or their families were also gone.
She wanted to help them build warm memories to fill their hearts and souls in the future. That is why she had invited them to share her home. Thinking of those coming, her own pain and anguish settled and those empty places were filled with quiet joy of what she had taken for granted. For the sake of those she loved who had gone on she would fill the hearts, souls, and stomachs of those here. She had love to share--now she would lavish it on to those of the present. Someone would always need to be loved. She merely had to open her eyes, her heart, and her mind to them.
God, the holidays so often bring to our minds the memories of the past and how things were. It is so easy to become lost in those memories; to dwell upon what we no longer have; to feel as if we are alone and unloved. However God, you are our constant. Your love surrounds us--even when we close ourselves off and wrap ourselves in grief, bitterness, or pain. We thank you God that your love seeps into us through our very pores, whether we acknowledge you or not. Fill us with your love. May we breathe in your love with each breath we draw. We surrender our grief and pain to you so that we may truly be thankful. So be it. Amen.
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.