Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
I am in Maine. I arrived at the beginning of November to celebrate my Dad’s 100th birthday and ended up planning his funeral ten days later.
My disabled sister, who lives in the same assisted living community, is unable to fully process what happened. Her Alzheimer’s has accelerated, causing her to forget Dad is gone. When she remembers, she asks why he can’t come back.
My husband is in Florida. His plans to join me for Thanksgiving are canceled due to increased health risks and travel warnings. It is the first Thanksgiving we have ever been apart. He’s running point at home, supporting me with long-distance love.
I must remain with my sister in order to move her to an assisted-living community near our home in Florida. Before that, I must safely get her to another sister’s for Christmas. The governor is restricting travel and visitors and I am not allowed to share Thanksgiving dinner with her.
This is not the holiday I planned. It is a different kind of Thanksgiving for all of us.
The stress of figuring out how to manage a six-week stay in Maine, care for my sister, close down two apartments and move her to Florida is overwhelming. The loss of my Dad is gut wrenching on its own; but layered on top of my sister’s grief it’s overwhelming.
As I tried to manage the impossibility of this situation, dear friends Mark and Therese called with the offer of their condo in Wells (an hour from my sister) for as long as I need it. Their warmth and hospitality offered me emotional respite, good food and a comfortable bed.
It is a retreat and a gift—a tangible reminder of the love and friendship we share. Mark and Therese showed me that love by opening their home to me in a time of isolation and illness.
There is no greater blessing than the gift of caring for one another.
Trying Times and New Traditions
At a time when we normally gather to celebrate and share a meal, we are isolated and alone. The Hallmark holidays we planned are canceled. People are not traveling, opening their homes to neighbors or hosting large family gatherings.
The risk of spreading a disease with no cure or approved vaccine is too great. Sharing a virus along with your Thanksgiving dinner is a life-threatening risk. Instead, people are self-isolating and opting for immediate family around the table.
Different doesn’t have to be depressing or bad. Thanksgiving is still something to look forward to, even if we gather virtually and find new ways to celebrate.
The holidays are not the same this year—a pandemic imposes changes hard for us to make and accept. We are learning to scale back and get creative but there are still memories to be made.
Choosing intentional gratitude reveals deeper, non-material reasons to be thankful. Our ability to re-direct our thoughts, and mindfully control our emotions, actions and behaviors is a gift we can use to stay positive.
Though it’s temporary, we’ll find new ways of celebrating that might even become traditions in years to come. The important thing this year is to act responsibly, remain safe and remember to Be Thankful.
Treasure What You Have
It is hard to feel angry, resentful and stressed if you are feeling grateful. In these challenging times, it is easy to think about what we are missing. These are normal feelings—but at the same time let’s remember the good stuff.
We’re living in a virtual world. Working from home blurs the lines between our professional and personal lives. Sometimes life feels like a never-ending Zoom meeting, emphasizing the disconnect forced on us by Covid.
Family and friends (and a little bourbon) are the glue holding us together. It is important to express our gratitude when speaking with and about others.
President John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” This is our 2020 challenge.
Share your thankfulness for your family and friends, and especially your health. Each day has opportunities to reach out and offer appreciation and encouragement to others, including those less fortunate and those helping us to keep it real.
Isolation versus ICU
For the next few days let’s agree to stop wearing political opinions like armor and enjoy each other’s company. Follow the rules, for ourselves and for others. If you go out, wear a mask and wash your hands. It really is that simple.
Thanksgiving (and Christmas) look and feel differently this year. Let’s not lose sight of why we are isolated and continue to keep one another safe. Covid-19 is a deadly virus and we can choose how we respond. This is not about what we want to do, it’s about what we have to do.
There are those who disagree, claiming personal freedom and individual rights. People are continuing to congregate in large groups despite the super spreader risk of such gatherings. If you are one of them, I invite you stop, take a few deep breaths and consider how fortunate you are to be able to breathe.
Then think about Covid patients in an ICU who are struggling for every breath they take. Isolation is a far better option, even if we don’t like it.
I wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving—one filled with gratitude for the gift of unexpected blessings and the joy of family and friends. Let’s all hold on to the promise of a renewed holiday gathering in 2021, with everyone around the table.