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That feeling someone is missing. A deep, quiet sense of longing, even in the midst of contentment with current circumstances. The hovering shadow of being some sort of homesick for a more complete life. Do you feel it, too, at this time of year? Even in the middle of fun and good times. I do.

Longing for loved ones who aren’t with us is hard any time of the year, but especially at the holidays. I am eternally thankful for the times together with my loved ones in days gone by. Yet I’ll always miss them when separated, alongside the feelings of the love and hope that accompany this season. I still sense the presence of those I love through great memories, favorite recipes, and shared traditions.

Perhaps living with the uncertainty of the pandemic also triggers our desires to be emotionally safe and secure, amplifying that longing to be with loved ones, those far away.

I had the privilege to walk both parents and our good dog on home to Heaven in the last four years. Many of you have lost loved ones in that time frame, too. Humans and pets. Though the sting diminishes, the missing goes on. Thanksgiving, as families and friends gather, can trigger the pain of missing our loved ones. Some empty chairs remain at the table in our hearts.

Holiday gatherings are complicated. Our Thanksgiving tables may host all kinds of positive and challenging emotions, issues, and reality in the room, in addition to or caused by missing loved ones. Here is a list of possible guests:

  • Fear and uncertainty may attend and bring their friend, anxiety. However, they did not RSVP.
  • Sadness may come alone, as might lament. They will want to sit together.
  • Grief might come late, uninvited, but always expected.
  • Hardship may be part of the festivities this year. We will all help carry it.
  • Disagreement promises to be on its best behavior, and help us hunt for common ground.
  • Pride and entitlement might stop by. We can simply let them know they have the wrong address. Move along.
  • Joy will squeeze in the back door with a giggle, and bring a jiggly jello salad to share. Never the loudest in the group, but always the most surprising pleasant presence.
  • Trust will join in confidently, and immediately suggest that control issues, unmet expectations, and frustrations be quickly bagged up and carried out to the trash cans in back.
  • Peace will show up for dessert. Always a welcome guest. Rarely the first to arrive. Ready to highlight the blessings in spite of the pain.
  • Everyone will help clean up. Some more than others.

Thanksmissing. A reality when we experience a variety of emotions often connected to separation from loved ones through distance for many reasons: military deployment, death, changes in location, work schedules, a split in the family, differing views and opinions, other commitments, and perhaps even boundaries in relationships, or a lost dream.

It is never easy to endure separation when it causes missing, but practicing gratitude and embracing the privileges we’ve had along the way may get us through. The holidays can be bittersweet for many, especially as we age. Sensitivity and kindness in the midst of those moments go a long way. Love will prevail. New traditions, recipes, and memories will be made.

In November, I place some rosemary in a vase. Rosemary symbolizes eternal love and remembrance. The fragrance and the beauty help me hold my parents and their love close during the holidays.

I wish you each a happy Thanksgiving! And if you are missing someone this year, I hope you hold them close through great memories, video calls, plans for future get-togethers, improved health, and healing hearts. I wish you peace. Many of us understand. There will be more blessings to come, so please pass the pie and that bowl of fluffy, sweet, billowy whip cream to top it off.

The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.

C.S. Lewis

Stay grateful, my friends.

For those of you who also follow God, here is an encouraging verse:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15