2013-11-21 / Columns

Chicken Soup For The Soul

Full Of Grace

by Hilary Heskett

“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.” – E.P. Powell

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A family is able to enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner.

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“I don’t feel right about this,” I whispered to one of my cousins. She nodded in agreement and tucked an errant hair behind her ear. I twisted my fingers in the napkin on my lap, not wanting to be the first to touch the food. Turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing and green bean casserole called to me, but their siren song seemed muted. I sighed and waited for one of the older adults to start.

Thanksgiving usually meant laughter and stuffed bellies; however, this year was different. My family sat around the candlelit table staring at our feast. No words, no sounds of utensils clinking, only unmet gazes and shifting in seats. Everyone had a full plate, everyone except for Grandma.

After conquering throat cancer, the radiation treatment intended to provide life-saving therapy took away one of her greatest pleasures, eating. Grandma had received her feeding tube a few weeks earlier, and this was the first of many food-focused holidays to come. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to never taste buttery rolls or pumpkin pie again.

The fabric in my hands was now more origami than napkin when my dad began to pray. A small ripple of relief passed through me for the few seconds of just having to listen. By the time he reached “Amen,” concern thundered around me again. This felt wrong.

My cousin Molly pierced the silence with a raise of her glass, “To Nat.”

We all followed her lead, one crystal goblet at a time.

“Your courage and strength inspire us all,” she continued.

Unshed tears sparkled as Grandma smiled and said: “Thank you. Please, please eat.”

And with that, we all began to feast. Conversations erupted around the room while Grandma laughed and talked with us all. She graciously asked questions about the food, wondering if the stuffing was too dry or if the sweet potatoes had too many marshmallows. Cancer would take away her ability to eat, but not her gift of being the ultimate hostess.

The evening went on as normal Thanksgivings do, with rounds of Pictionary and jokes told over dessert. By the time the night was over, I felt closer to my family than ever before. I learned that we gather together on holidays not to eat rich fare and complain of “food coma,” but to support and share with one another. We celebrated my grandmother’s courage, but we all learned a lesson in grace.

In the years following, my grandma continued to create meals for family events that were just as delicious, if not better than before. Not once did I hear her lament about what she was missing. She told me once with a laugh, “I may not be able to eat, but I can still taste things.”

Her spin on what could have been a chute into the depths of depression showed me the value of a positive attitude. Instead of obsessing about what she lost, she channeled her focus into becoming a champion of taste. She discovered new recipes and made improvements on old ones, all the while surviving after a life-altering blow. With a selfless heart, she prepared what she could not have for the sole purpose of making us happy. She inspired me to learn to cook and helped me find the secret ingredient to make everything come together: love.

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Visit our website: www.chicken soup.com.

(c)2013 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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