A few days ago I read a Thanksgiving essay by Mitch Albom, one of the authors whose books I thoroughly enjoy reading.
“The Empty Table” is a tribute to his family members who are no longer here, and describes the empty table he is setting this year in their honor, a place set for each of them. And he goes on to name each of them, with a brief description of how they had enjoyed their annual family Thanksgiving meal while they were with him.
It was one of the most touching tributes for lost family members I have read in a long time.
Like Mr. Albom, I have also lost many family members, including my parents. And I so often think of them at this time of year, and if I close my eyes, I can still see them sitting at our family table, enjoying both food and fellowship, and above all, love for one another. Like Mr. Albom, I miss each of my family members terribly. I understand how he feels.
Over the years I’ve written about honoring and remembering lost loved ones at the holiday season, especially that first year without them. I’ve talked about setting a place for them at the table, even displaying a picture on the table by their untouched plate.
But setting an entire table and leaving it empty? I would not have thought of that. But yet, it makes sense.. if they’re there in spirit, why not make them welcome! Honor their memory in whatever way you choose.
Now I am in no way the writer Mr. Albom is. His way with words is incredible and his ideas and style are unique. However, his essay inspired me to write my own version of his Thanksgiving tribute, and I hope you will take a few minutes to do the same.
My tribute is called “the invisible table”. As I can imagine so many of my loved ones, once again together, enjoying a heavenly Thanksgiving dinner, probably similar to the ones they enjoyed here on earth. Now ageless, healthy, and, I would think, able to eat whatever they want, and as much as they want.
I can imagine their heavenly Thanksgiving starting early, because after all, time is eternal in heaven, and its citizens do not need to conform to the earthly time frames that once limited them. However for this day I would think a few bits of earthy traditions would appear in their heavenly homes. After all, the turkey needs to be put in the oven the first thing in order for everything else to be ready on time.
Wait! Cooking in heaven? Doesn’t the food just appear? Already prepared?
Most likely, however, since my grandmother, my mother, and most of my aunts loved to cook for Thanksgiving, I’m sure they still enjoy that in heaven, and still enjoy preparing their favorite dish to serve their loved ones and any special guests who drop by. (But I’m willing to bet they don’t have to clean up or put the leftovers away!)
I’m sure their heavenly Thanksgiving table is beautifully set, with flickering golden candles, glistening crystal goblets, and iridescent plates like we can only imagine. And once the meal is ready, most likely they are all seated at this table, and served their delicious meal by a hoard of angels.
I can see my grandfather, at the head of the table, his wavy hair now full and dark, bowing his head and saying the Thanksgiving blessing, and thanking the Lord that they are all together.
My grandmother, now wheelchair free, sits at the opposite end of that table, the family matriarch, surrounded by her children and their spouses, telling him, “Seymour, cut that turkey and start passing the food before it gets cold!”
My uncle Hilton is there, no longer shaking from Parkinson’s, his wife Ruth and their daughter Julia at his side, swapping jokes with his brothers in law, and planning a fishing trip for all of them.
My uncle Carlton and his wife Kitty, freed from the earthly prison of Alzheimer’s, offer a Thanksgiving toast with heavenly wine, the likes of which have never been tasted on earth.
My uncle Fowler is there, cancer free, wearing one of his favorite lighted Christmas ties, the lights blinking off and on while he’s racing my Uncle Jay to see who gets the turkey neck!
And uncle Jay, also free from Alzheimer’s, is eating so quickly, as always, that he drops food on his favorite Christmas tie, which actually blends in with the food spots from last year’s dinner. And of course, there are my mom’s dogs, all of them reunited with her, circling around Jay’s chair, because he always drops yummy morsels for them to enjoy.
My aunt Mary, Jay’s wife, sits happily beside him, her memory clear, and happily serves everyone a scoop of her delicious oyster dressing. And everyone is asking if she brought her special angel pie for dessert, that none of us have ever been able to properly duplicate!
And of course, there are my mom and dad. How happy they look! Finally together after so many years. Daddy’s hair is dark and full, his eyesight perfect, and his headaches are forever gone. Once again he is with the family he loved and didn’t have nearly enough earthly time with.
My mother is beside him, smiling like I’ve never seen before, because she is finally reunited with the love of her life. Her hair is once again dark and wavy, her eyes still as blue, and her face unlined, her complexion as smooth as it was in the photo I have of their wedding day. And beside them are my brothers and sisters I never met, the babies she’d lost to miscarriages, now finally reunited with their parents, and, like everyone else at the table, begging for her “famous” cinnamon buns that she always made for every holiday dinner. And there were at least four trays of them, lovingly made for the family my mom still treasures.
There are a few empty seats there, waiting for other family members to join them. But that doesn’t put a damper on their celebration, because they know we’ll all be there one day.
And this is my Invisible table, with my family. They are all happy and smiling. They’re together again. And yes, I’m sure they remember us. They miss us, but they know they’ll see us again.
What about you? Do you have an Invisible table? Please feel free to share your stories with us, as I did, and as Mitch Albom did in “The Empty Table”.
Happy Thanksgiving! Be blessed!