As I arise this Thanksgiving morning, I immediately head to the kitchen to retrieve my breakfast smoothie after my morning devotions. I began thinking about those who, along with my family, will celebrate or tolerate Thanksgiving Day without that loved one who has passed on since the last holiday.
Because my husband and I were in ministry throughout our marriage, we became sensitive to the needs of those in our congregations who felt a sense of loneliness during the holiday seasons. Honestly, you cannot feel empathy for others until you have experienced what they have been through however, you can provide a sense of sympathy. It will never be the same but is appreciated.
I can now speak to others who have already walked the path of life that my family experienced this year with the loss of my husband, my children’s father and my grandsons’ Papa with empathy. In fact, I was comparing Henry’s driver’s license picture taken in 2016 to his ID photo in 2019 and realized how dementia had been stealing even the expression of my husband for the last four years. I remember that day in 2019 when I drove him to the driver’s license office to obtain the ID card.
I’m not sure why I thought it necessary to have the card when I still had his license even though he wasn’t driving. Anyway, we waited patiently for our number to be called and then I assisted Henry in getting settled in front of the clerk. I gave her his information and then we all know what comes next. That gorgeous photo shoot which the entire world will see even though everyone always looks like they are in misery. Henry was instructed to look at the camera – it should only take a few seconds. However, Henry’s attention span was much shorter than a few seconds so he would immediately look in another direction. I could tell the lady was getting frustrated and probably had never had to deal with a dementia patient, but I remained quietly watching from the side.
The lady then assured me that they would get a face shot instead of his ear or his shoulder or his raised arm, so she asked for assistance. Same scenario again with the new camera person. And again with another new camera person. Finally, after changing photographers five times, (it totally took a village to do this simple job), the last person snapped his photo as he was looking from right to left. They were so excited that, at least, you would be able to recognize Henry from his ID card, and I was relieved to be escorting this tired little man home.
Even after Henry was no longer able to drive his car, we still kept it so our grands could use it when necessary. I thought I should contact our insurance company to inform them that I was now the principal driver of our two cars. I figured that there would definitely be a reduction in the monthly premium since I was the only driver. Do you believe they were going to raise my premium? Something about family premiums are more economical. My argument was that Henry and I were still riding together in the cars; he just was not driving. You know, it did not matter. So the agent explained that they could keep him on the policy anyway to keep our premiums down. Until, of course, he passed away and I had to get the policy changed. And yes, I am paying more now than I did when he was alive because I’m a single woman.
I hope to help you understand why it’s such a difficult time after losing a loved one who was vital in the day-to-day activities of the family. Three years ago, our family lawyer directed us to get a quit claim deed for the house to put my name only on the deed. We did as instructed, sent the copy to our mortgage company, expecting them to automatically change the names on the mortgage and I would be the responsible person. Of course, I was the responsible person who was paying all the bills and caring for my husband with dementia 24/7. Do you believe when Henry passed away, they still had not changed my account, and I had to prove with a death certificate that Henry no longer was alive? And, how about the utility companies? They too had to have proof before anything was changed even though I had been responsible for the bills for the last five years.
So, for many families, it’s not just the loss of the loved one that is so traumatic but it is dealing with life after loss especially if there are small children and other family members who must be cared for. So, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am propped up in my bed with my computer doing what I love to do, writing. I have found a way of connecting to others who are walking the same path and, as I give away what I’m given, I am receiving as much as I give.
I will now head to the kitchen to begin preparing the turkey for our family dinner. We shall celebrate as we always have because Henry Jones would want us to keep moving. He taught us to walk by faith and not by sight. I will cook the traditional broccoli and rice casserole, potato soufflé, collard greens and chocolate pecan cake while my daughter-in-love, Melissa, makes her famous dressing, macaroni and cheese and carrot cake. We will remember Thanksgivings past with Henry and celebrate today because we realize you do not quit living because that loved one has passed on to his forever home. Life does go on.
So tomorrow, we will visit the cemetery after receiving the call that the headstone has been placed. I’m sure this will be another milestone for us as I read my name already placed for future reference. Does this frighten me to realize that I should be the next one passing in my family? Absolutely not! After being present when Henry passed, we all realized how amazing it is to step from this room of reality into the heavenly realm.
Have a great, peace-filled Thanksgiving Day!