Over the years, Thanksgiving had become one of my favorite holidays. I loved the traditions, the food (minus the turkey) and the fact that my house had become the go-to spot. I loved that our family knew to come over after Kate woke up from her nap. I loved that MY stuffing had become the family favorite. I loved that I didn’t even have to ask Mom to make the pies…she just knew it was her job. I loved that after 6 years of hosting Thanksgiving on my own, I still had to ask every year how to make mashed potatoes just as good as my mom’s and, if my sister was in town, it was automatically her job.
Since we started hosting 6 years ago, we had special reason after special reason to celebrate…and even more so with Kate’s arrival. Though the date changed yearly, Thanksgiving Day holds a lot of special memories for me and my little family of three.
The first year we hosted was the day we announced that we were expecting a baby. My mom was recovering from a mastectomy and we all posed for a family picture. While setting the timer, we told everyone on the count of three, say “Lindsay’s pregnant!” instead of cheese…and the video was rolling the whole time so we caught everyone’s reactions. It was a very, very special night.
The second year we hosted, Kate was here! A sweet little chubby baby of nearly 6 months old, she got to enjoy her first taste of solid food at the dinner table with us. She loved her sweet potatoes and being passed around and doted on as the only Virginia-grandchild.
The fourth year, we thanked our lucky stars she was still with us. Diagnosed just 3 months before, we were settling into the world of childhood cancer and were supported by friends & family all over with shared dishes to serve and more love than we could fathom. Kate learned she loved pumpkin pie and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and for a brief moment, I felt okay. I felt like we were going to be okay.
Year five was extra special. It was the first holiday Kate got to spend with her cousins. It snowed that weekend and the kids played in the snow, which Kate loved. We had pancake breakfasts at her favorite place and the cousins visited Grandad “up on the mountain.” We had to rent tables & chairs that year and happily moved furniture out of our living room to seat everyone. Kate loved nothing more than when her family was all together.
Last year was what I had dreamed of since she was born…a happy, healthy little girl who had become my very best friend. She helped me cook. She set the table. She picked out each & every person’s place and thought about where everyone would like to sit. She had learned a special story at school and shared it with us and she made crafts at school and brought them home. She had been without chemo for 2 months, seemed SO happy and SO healthy. She spent the evening being as sweet as I can ever remember her being (not hard to do, however) and she spent the night beating everyone at Candy Land, giggling herself silly and remembering how much she loved pumpkin pie. She stayed up extra late. Her first schoolmate play date and movie in a theater followed. The cold & low fever that became the beginning of the end started that same weekend. It will forever cloud my memory and joy from that weekend…because less than 2 months later, she would be gone from this Earth and my heart has not caught up with the reality that there will be none of this ever again. My mind cannot look at pictures of her from that night, so full of love and hope and relief and think that mere weeks later, she would be gone. I will never understand what happened. I will never understand why.
As hard as it is, I will remain thankful. Thankful for her. Thankful for her life. Thankful for her doctor and nurses who gave us those 2 years with her. (Trust me…they don’t understand how or why, either and fully expected an unlimited number of years.) I will always be thankful she chose me. Of all of the mommies in the world, this perfect, precious, loving Kate…chose ME.
Friends, readers and followers…thank you for reading this and for being here with me. I am thankful for you and your support. Please, for me…for Daddy…for Kate…tell your children how much you love them and make sure that you are showing them, too. For my friends here who have also lost a child, please know that my heart is with you as you face that empty chair, whether an actual empty chair or one like mine that exists only in my head.
Kate, I love you. I miss you so desperately. I wish so many things…so,so many things. Please stay close. I need you. Best friends forever. I promise.