I wanted to go to the community Thanksgiving service. A friend of ours was preaching and I wanted to hear. I wanted to sit in dim light with other believers and feel the cold in my bones go away for a while. I wanted to feel a part of something bigger than me, bigger than my church, bigger than the air in this space around me. I wanted to be thankful.
But I took the dogs out and Penny saw a cat in the meadow so she ran after it and so I did too and we tromped through the mud of yesterday’s rains until I carried much of the earth on the bottom of my feet. I left my shoes on the porch and took those dogs back inside and wiped Penny’s paws. She jumped up on me in gratitude—wiping what remained of her muddy jaunt all over my sweater.
And now the boys need to go to lessons and Jeff says he’ll take them. But I feel guilty, and he says, no you go to the service if you want to. He is too tired to go. I just need to rest, he says. So they leave me alone in the house. Dark comes knocking and I sit in lamplight and feel it enter me.
Forty-five minutes to the service and I am a muddy mess. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to go alone. I don’t want to feel this way. And what will I do with these dogs?—One of them in heat and wearing toddler training pants?
So I grab the old flannel shirt, wrap a scarf around my head, get rid of the dog panties, and we go walking under light-washed stars.
The cold stings my cheeks and the wet leaves on the ground shine like coins in the streetlights and everything is quiet. The creek is shimmer and I listen in the dark to water whisper over stones and hush as it plunges into deep. The sky bends down low towards me and I hold it in my arms and I know that this is Thanksgiving.
What month is it? I had asked my little brain-injury patient earlier today. He stared. There is a holiday this week, I prodded. It’s a holiday where you fix a big turkey, and you eat pumpkin pie…What holiday is it?
He just shook his head.
It’s a holiday where you give thanks, I said. You say grace…and give thanks.
Is it July? He asked.
Through the windows of my neighbors’ houses I see Christmas lights winking—trees standing in corners and bows tied around stair rails. I suck the cold into my lungs. I wonder about Advent—about the hoping and preparing and waiting…
The stars move along the horizon like some midnight train and I turn my eyes upward.
How long? I ask the stars. I think of my young patient and the older ones too. I think of tired husbands and dogs that wear diapers. The world seems to droop with weariness.
And I droop too.
Just then, the moon rises—opening the sky like a big round mouth—and swallows me in beauty…spits me back out and I’m left standing there—covered in the dew of heaven.
Teach me how to die, Lord. Show me how.
I’ve died a million deaths since the day I was born. I’m not wired to look past pain—I can’t ignore the suffering. But gently, over and over, He teaches me how to die.
Standing alone on a dark night, bathed in moonlight, tangled up in dog leashes…I give myself over to death. I die to everything I know about what is good and what is right; what is fair, what is sorrow. I die to what I want—to my expectations. I die to everything except knowing Christ. And knowing He is good.
I expect I’ll have to die again before this life is over.
Thank you. Thank you dark and tattered world. Thank you grief, compassion, sorrow. Thank you weariness and heavy heart.
You show me His strength. You lead me to Him.