Fred winced involuntarily from the pain as he reached across the small folding table. He handed a paper plate to each of his guests. Then he passed the food around. It was hardly traditional holiday fare — ravioli and yellow corn, both from cans — but everything in his life was different now.
The year before he had awakened on that cool, crisp Thanksgiving Day blissfully entwined with his beloved wife Ginger. The birth of their daughter Vera the previous week had precluded any traveling, but they looked forward to starting new traditions with their new little family. Vera’s demands were nearly constant but they had been preparing a small feast in the moments they could manage over the last couple of days.
Fred kissed Ginger lightly, hoping she would get a few more minutes of sleep. Then he slid out of bed and leaned over Vera’s crib. He was briefly overcome. All his senses registered — angelic face, rhythmic breathing, baby powder, the incredible softness of her cheek as he brought his lips close. He had thought he knew how powerful love could be when he had married Ginger, but his love for this child was all-consuming.
He stopped in the kitchen to put coffee on the stove and then stepped outside. He picked the newspaper up from the porch and looked eastward. The sun was just a glow on the horizon and he stood there shivering to watch it rise. It was silly, he thought, but he had made it a point to watch the sun rise every day since Vera was born. Silently he said a prayer of thanks as he breathed in the autumn morning. Mostly it was the smell of the leaves scattered across the ground. And then… smoke!
He rushed inside to find the house full of dense, black smoke and the kitchen ablaze. He shouted Ginger’s name and crawled toward the bedroom. He never made it that far. He awoke days later in the burn ward and began a long slow recovery.
When he finally got to visit the graves of his wife and daughter, he fell into an unconsolable sobbing heap. The painful rehab dragged on for months. His business closed and his insurance was about to run out. He was already a month behind on the rent for the small room in which Chuck and Dave, two other long-term patients at the rehab center, now joined him for the holiday meal.
Any summary of his life at this point would conclude that in a year he had lost everything — his family, home, business, and health. The only thing he had not lost was his faith. So he clasped his withered hands, bowed his head, and said, “Let us give thanks.”
[Note: Learn more about Fred and Ginger here. ~Tim 6 Dec 2009]