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Coffee for Your Heart: Throwback Thanksgiving

Linking up with Holley Gerth at Coffee For Your Heart  this drizzly Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Eight Thanksgivings ago it was my first Thanksgiving with my husband.  That first Thanksgiving that comes with splitting the time between in laws and not waking up early to find my mom rolling out pie crusts and the house awash in the smell of a turkey drowning in butter and scallions.
Of course it was special because it was our first one as a married couple.   I have two memories that have remained from it.  The first being that my husband decided to become a hunter.  I could say more about that.  Humorous and not, but I'm skipping to the real treasure I still have tucked within my mind from Thanksgiving 2006.

I was twenty one and still had a semester left of college when I said "I do" to my husband one steamy July afternoon that year.  I had a part time job at a local nursing home that morphed into a full time job after I finished school.  For three days  a week I got to spend my days roaming the halls and weaving in and out of the rooms of a rehabilitation center/ nursing home.  I loved it.  I had started volunteering there two years prior.
When i tell you why you'll laugh.  You know Driving Miss Daisy?  Where Daisy is sitting in the nursing home chair and Hoch is feeding her that piece of pumpkin pie?  That scene where an unlikely friendship has been forged, well for some reason even as a young child that made a strong impression on me.  I had to do service project in college every semester so I decided to go to this nursing home and see what I could do.  That basically meant I got to go be friends with some people sixty years older than me.  And I loved it.  The second reason I loved it was because I never got to form close ties with my grandparents.  They lived away or had died and I was hungry for a connection and relationship with people of generations before me.  Sitting in Miss Macy's room hearing her repeat the same story over and over  or combing Miss Ida Mae's hair and painting her gnarly church pianist fingers was a pure delight to me.  These were my people and I was nineteen and somewhat of an old soul myself.

Let me tell you something about self esteem.  If you are feeling rather low, lonely, or not important go  befriend someone in a nursing home.  You suddenly will gain an unparalleled following.  And that's not to be discounted.  Sometimes the people we need to be friends with are people we never thought would be that important to us.
Seriously you will hear, "You beautiful thing." Automatically if you are under 35 and have brushed your hair.  Slap some lip gloss on and you might just get what happened to me one day in the cafeteria, "Sweet heart I put my teeth in today. Can I kiss you?"  A sweet almost 100 man leaned forward to me.  I was shocked but recovered enough to lend him my cheek.

So here's why Thanksgiving 06 is so sweet to me.

I was assigned a hall to do room visits and to lead activities.  I did it and loved it.  But there was a certain lady that stole my heart.  In fact truth be told she got an unbalanced piece of my life that summer and fall.  I was drawn to her room every time.  Once I'd go into her room it took me a while to make it back out.  At the end of the month I'd play catch up just because I had spent too much time in her room.  Her name was Addie *.
Let me describe Miss Addie to you.  She always had a dress on or a very prim night gown.  She wore about enough Red Door to knock you out.  She had a collection of romance novels spilling out next to her bed that she was most of the times likely to be found lost in.
She was pretty.  She was in her nineties and she was pretty.  Her cheeks weren't wrinkled etched and her skin was smooth.  Which just goes to show you that having some meat left on your bones is a good thing.  Her cheeks plumped out in a beautiful smile.
At first she eyed me warily and was very quiet looking out at me from behind glasses. It wasn't long that summer that we became fast friends.

That lady was above most of the activities that we did in the activities room, but she was all about bingo.  I realize that people make fun of the elderly and bingo, but it was the only way they got to shop and every Friday was a sacred day.  You don't mess with Bingo.  You might as well be in Atlantic City with the look of determination that streaked frowns across furrowed brows in anticipation of shooting that hand in the air and declaring to the whole day room, "BINGO!"
Miss Addie was in on it.  After Bingo was done and she had her weekly winnings it was time to exit the premises.

Sitting in her room I remember that she started giving me little stuffed animals she had picked out.
"This is for your baby" She said sweetly.  I was barely married.  No baby.
I think it was a hint for me.  She made lots of those hints to me.
I still have one of the stuffed animals she beat out all her competitors for.  A little bear with a sunbonnet given to me to give to "the baby".
She started opening up to me and telling me her life.  Her love of her daughters and children in general.  Her husband.  Her family.  Her heart.

Remember when I said that if you need some encouragement go to a nursing home?  Well she liked to sing.  I'd bring music in and we'd sing "When We All Get To Heaven".  Her high pitched tune came out sweet and then there was me.  I did what I could, but I will never ever be in a choir.  One day she turned to me and said, "You really should sing in a choir. With your husband." My husband was a choir director.  I truly knew I loved her then.  She loved me despite the fact that I could not sing a lick.

Five months clicked by and she was the sweet spot in my day.  The week of Thanksgiving rolled in and we made a huge spread for the residents.  I remember staying up all night dumping one more stick of butter in the gargantuan pot that I submerged a turkey in.  That was the only stellar turkey I've made, and there wasn't any of it left.  I guess if you want a moist turkey eight sticks of butter will truly do the trick.
Miss Addie got sick though and had to be taken to the hospital.  (not because of the turkey) I was worried.  But I didn't think she was too sick.  She had a lot of spunk that shot up her spine and made her sit poised and proper.
The night before Thanksgiving I went to see her.  Darkness had fallen and her daughter was in her room.  She left so Miss Addie and I could chat.  I thought she would be just fine, but she looked at me and told me that this was it.  She wasn't coming home.  I was a bit baffled.  She was always telling me how she was ready to go home to Heaven, but I didn't think she was at all ready yet.
Mystified I leaned closer and tears started spilling down my cheeks as she whispered to me that she was ready.  "I wish you could go with me," She smiled and squeezed my hand.  I nodded into her clear eyes, "But you have a husband to take care of." And then she said it, those words I've never forgotten, "You may bring many people into God's Kingdom like me."  At the time I didn't know the weight of those words.  I knew they were precious.  I remember hugging her, crying and assuring her that she would be okay and I'd be back tomorrow.

After my husband's first Thanksgiving hunt and our first family stop, I convinced my husband to take me to the Hospital.  I had too see Miss Addie.  When we entered the room there she sat with a good bit of feistiness spread across her face.
They were bringing in her 'Thanksgiving' dinner and you could tell she wouldn't be eating any of it.
She said a few things and when she saw tears start to glimmer in my eyes she said through clenched teeth, "Stop being a tiddy baby!"  And that was supposed to be the end of that.  I think I almost saluted out a "Yes ma'am." "She's back to her old self," I thought and breathed relief.  Her spunk made the jello on her tray quiver and she told my new husband, "Take care of her."  I think he was a little humored by the whole conversation.
We didn't stay long as she didn't seem to be in a mood for company.

The next morning I called down to the hospital to check on her.  After her zeal the previous day I was sure I'd be given a good report but the operator just said, "No one by that name is here."
I knew it.  She was gone. Just like she had wished and said.
I made another phone call and it was true.  She had said good bye at Thanksgiving and was now safely home in Heaven.  Where she wanted to be.

It was hard to explain the way I felt.  I had felt like in some ways she was my own grandmother and in other ways she was a precious friend seventy years older than me.  I tried explaining it to my husband and mom but I don't think they got what she meant to me.

I went to her viewing and funeral and she looked beautiful.  She lay there in bright pink dress and could not have looked more peaceful.  I knew she would have been proud.  There weren't many people there.  That's what happens when you outlive most of the people in your life.  The service was upbeat and I knew without doubt where Miss Addie was.

All those Thanksgivings have come and gone but her words for me that night before Thanksgiving have been a rich treasure for me.
For two reasons.
They were some of her last words.  She knew it.  For whatever reason I got to hear them despite having only lived life with her for basically a millisecond.  Just the last page really. Five brief months.  Yet I got to lean close and be apart of the last.  That statement, "You may bring many people into God's Kingdom like me." Those words have deeply touched me.  I don't know why she said them to me as a young woman, but they gave me a hope for my life.  It was a sacred gift to me.  A final blessing.
She had no idea what a profound impact those words of love and hope birthed in me.  And Miss Addie, "May it be."  I hope one day I get to bless someone with life words like that.  Even if I never know about it.

The last take-away for me is this. Sometimes the people we think we are helping end up being the ones that help us do our best living.  We think we are serving them, but the beauty of their heart ends up being the real gift to us.

I have different family members or friends in Heaven that I think about seeing again.  For some reason though I hope when I close my eyes here and wake up there Miss Addie is among the people I first see.  I want to kiss her smooth cheek and thank her for the blessing she spoke over my life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

* I changed names of course for privacy purposes 


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