The Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run

Dean, Todd, and me on our Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run - Nov. 26, 2015
Dean, Todd, and me on our Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run – Nov. 26, 2015


Remember the days of old; consider generations long past. – Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV)

I don’t know if you picked up on it, but last week my heart just wasn’t in composing my traditional Thanksgiving column. The key word in that last sentence is “traditional.”

Our Thanksgiving traditions were, once again, changing, and not of our own doing or choice.

Growing up, my husband and I had different Thanksgiving traditions. While he spent the day with a whole clan of relatives, enjoying Grandma’s pies — and she baked plenty and a variety — I spent the day quietly reading while my mother, who shooed everyone out of the kitchen, prepared a turkey dinner for just the five of us. If any relative stopped in, it was for only a few minutes. We certainly never went anywhere on Thanksgiving Day.

Fast forward 20 years. Now married with my own family, I wanted to begin a new tradition: We hosted Thanksgiving dinner and invited Dean’s parents, and his sister and her family.

By then my own family was scattered. My brother and sister, both out-of-state, had established their own Thanksgiving traditions. My father had passed away, and my mother was grappling with Alzheimer’s Disease.

This tradition ran its cycle until our three children grew up. I never wanted them to feel obligated to come home for the holidays but rather to establish their own traditions. After all, isn’t that what we raise them for? To live their own lives, to make their own mark in their corner of the world.

But we still celebrated the day with some of our ever-growing family. I didn’t have to cook the entire meal any longer — just bring a dish or two — and that was just fine by me.

Then life changed. Again. This year we faced spending the day by ourselves. I realize there are those for whom Thanksgiving (and any other holiday) is “just another day.” But we didn’t want it to be that way for us. We have too many good memories of Thanksgiving past.

So my husband suggested something unusual: take the day and visit the cemeteries where our parents and grandparents are buried — to thank them for what they contributed to our lives.

And with our oldest son accompanying us, that’s what we did. On Thanksgiving Day, we drove 246 miles, stopped at six cemeteries, and visited our forebears — his parents and grandparents, buried in Jefferson County, and my parents and godparents in the Mon Valley (near Donora). We reminisced — even our son had memories of these precious folks, even though I’d thought he was too young to remember.

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We drove through two cemeteries where my grandparents are buried. I didn’t know exactly where their graves were, but just driving through was like a trip down memory lane, my mind and heart making connections I’d avoided making for far too long.

No, it wasn’t morbid. It was enlightening. And freeing.

Connecting with our past, touching base with our heritage, we realized how truly blessed we are. We are what we are because of what they were and what they did.

Seeing those gravestones gave us not a sense of loss or finality, but of continuity and hope. We are, we realized, the connection between the past and the future.

“We should note the days of old. They are what mold us.” (Curt Lovelace, “Memorializing the Past, A Practice in Remembering God’s Goodness”)

Who knows? Maybe we started a new tradition: The Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run.

Thank you, Father God, for reminding us of the rich heritage we have. Help us to pass along that legacy to our children and grandchildren. May they, too, comprehend the continuity of life. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Joshua 4:1–7

Thanksgiving – Then and Now


For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. – Philippians 4:11 (KJV)

I’m thankful for the muddy floor that greets me every day.

I’m thankful for the dirty socks that on the floor doth lay.

I’m thankful for the fingerprints that deck both chair and wall.

I’m thankful for the daily dust that on the desk doth fall.

I’m thankful for my kitchen sink that hides the dirty dish.

I’m thankful for the splattered wall from when I fried the fish.

I’m thankful for the Cheerios, Playdoh, and other yuck,

And all the stones and crayons that plug my sweeper up.

I’m thankful for the toothpaste smeared on the bathroom door.

I’m thankful for the wad of gum stuck to the kitchen floor.

I’m thankful for the scattered toys that often piece my feet

When I must run to get the phone before I’ve time to sweep.

I’m thankful for the mending I love so much to do

That I hide it in the corner and buy them something new.

I’m thankful for the unmade beds – they mean I’m not alone.

I’m thankful for so many things that make our house a home.

I wrote the above poem years ago when the kids were still home and driving me crazy. Oh, how I longed for the time they’d be all grown up and on their own! Oh, how I craved a house that stayed clean and “red up.”

Now the kids are grown and gone, raising families of their own. The house stays clean – and too quiet. I miss the noise and chaos that come with raising a family.

Can’t we humans ever be happy? When we have one thing, we yearn for something else. When we have that something else, we want what we had.

Why, I wonder, can’t I be like the Apostle Paul, who said he was content whatever the circumstances of life (Philippians 4:11)? And he wrote those words while under house arrest. Haha – I felt like I was under house arrest back when I wrote that poem.

But time moves on, doesn’t it?

I’m learning to embrace each season of my life as it unfolds, whether or not it unfolds the way I’d planned and dreamed.

You see, God is in control, and He has a purpose for each of us in every season of life. He knows the end from the beginning. “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be,” the psalmist wrote (Psalm 139:16).

This year we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving the Saturday following the holiday. Our oldest son, who loves to cook, will prepare a turkey dinner. Our youngest son and his girlfriend will drive home from Ebensburg for the day. Three of our five grandchildren will be here. Sometime during the chaos, our daughter, who lives 650 miles away, will call and the phone will be passed around.

The house will ring with laughter and conversation and family love—and remind me that my house is still a home.

You have blessed me with so much, Lord. Remind me in my disgruntled moments to be content with whatever I have—because whatever I have comes from You, the giver of every perfect gift (James 1:17). Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Philippians 4:4–13


Happy Thanksgiving to my readers!

May God open the windows of heaven and pour out His abundant blessings on you and your families —  a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over — so much you will not have room enough for it!

Love, Michele