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"Thanksgiving - More Than Food"

If I was to mention the word "Thanksgiving" to you, what images come to mind? If you're like me, you think of turkey, stuffing, gravy, yams, mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, delicious deserts, holiday gatherings, etc. For those of us in America, we learned in our classrooms about the Pilgrim story and the celebration feast. Even as children, we saw images of men and women wearing black and white outfits and many of them carrying food. One can't help but attach these pictures of food with the word.

I know I correlate Thanksgiving as a day of cooking and eating around the kitchen table. But I would add that the Thanksgiving meal is really much more than food. Just think of this for a moment: what if you went to the store, purchased all the necessary foods for your Thanksgiving meal, went home and prepared everything. Then, once you were done, you placed each prepared dish on the table. But when you sat down and noticed no one sitting around the table, you immediately knew something was missing - your loved ones and guests.

As I mentioned, we often think of Thanksgiving as a day of eating. But remove the guests and you'll quickly find that Thanksgiving isn't the same. Thanksgiving is really about those who sit around the dinner meal than it is the meal itself. Of course it's about eating delicious foods, but it's also about communing together, sharing wonderful memories, laughing, reminiscing, listening to each other's stories, and valuing each one present. In my mind, this is what Thanksgiving is all about. Yes, the homemade dishes add to the intimacy of the meal. But it's those present, those special loved ones we sit right next to, which make the celebration one that will be remembered for a lifetime.

The photo above reminds me just how special our Thanksgivings really were. It was November 1991 and everyone was sitting around the dinner table. Unfortunately, you can't see in this photo all the food mom and dad prepared for the occasion. But then again, it really supports my argument. If I moved the camera downward, you would only see the food. But if I moved the camera upward (as you see in this photo), we find the most essential elements to the festive occasion. Here we have (from left to right) Tad, mom, Reverend Russell Warner, dad, and Kristian. This is perhaps why I enjoy Thanksgiving more than Christmas these days - we can pause our busy lives and just enjoy one another.

I love the fact that you can see the smiles on my parent's faces. It wasn't so much that they had food on the table (although that was part of it) but, that their family was together under one roof. That was enough for my parents. I've learned from them that you can lose everything: your house, your career, your possessions, even your friends, but as long as you have your family, you are blessed. It's hard to explain this concept to those who find "joy" only in their "things" rather than their loved ones.

This is why Thanksgiving is so different for us nowadays. My father isn't seen around the table any longer. Some of you share that same feeling. You know how much it meant to you that each family member ate together. You loved watching your loved ones eat your homemade food. You loved hearing what they were up to and their great successes. But it was their presence in your home which touched your heart the most. Now you feel a big part of you is missing. I understand those feelings very well. The holidays will never be the same as we once knew it. But we can still celebrate in a new way, a way that brings honor to the ones we miss.

We can never replace our loved ones with someone else. There was no one like them and never will be. But although death may have removed them physically, no one can take what you and I have deep within our souls - our memories.