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November 18, 2005

This remarkable Thanksgiving

My husband's boss, Jan, invited us to dinner earlier this week. Yoshi, the company's Tokyo rep, was in Chicago for meetings, and she wanted to welcome him after the long flight with a homecooked meal. The surprise—for us all—was that she'd prepared a standard American Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, stuffing, green-bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, jellied and whole-berry cranberry sauce (straight from the Ocean Spray cans) and, of course, pumpkin pie. A heavenly addition were the "angel biscuits" that she'd learned to bake growing up in North Carolina.

We remarked on the remarkable familiarity of these dishes and told Yoshi that everybody eats just about this same meal. Thanksgiving isn't a time for experimentation. Then Jan said the other tradition is that we Americans do, indeed, give thanks to God on Thanksgiving—and she led the seven of us in grace.

Amid the fun of the shared meal and stories of other traditions from other times and places, my thoughts turned to what makes this Thanksgiving remarkable for me. It's a time of anticipated birth and death. The birth, of our first grandchild who's expected in June. The death, of the pastor who baptized our son, now the father-to-be, and who married us. He's in hospice care now, at home, his great good heart failing him day by day.

But what's not failing this long-retired campus pastor now is the nationwide network of former students who stay in touch with him by calls and cards, and with each other by e-mail. We tell each other how thankful we are for his presence in our lives—and that we're able now to tell him so, one more time. For all that is, that was, that is to come, thanks be to God.

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