The Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run

Dean, Todd, and me on our Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run - Nov. 26, 2015
Dean, Todd, and me on our Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run – Nov. 26, 2015

Remember the days of old; consider generations long past. – Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV)

Our Thanksgiving traditions were, once again, changing, and not of our own doing or choice.

Growing up, my husband and I had different Thanksgiving traditions. While he spent the day with a whole clan of relatives, enjoying Grandma’s pies — and she baked plenty and a variety — I spent the day quietly reading while my mother, who shooed everyone out of the kitchen, prepared a turkey dinner for just the five of us. If any relative stopped in, it was for only a few minutes. We certainly never went anywhere on Thanksgiving Day.

Fast forward 20 years. Now married with my own family, I wanted to begin a new tradition: We hosted Thanksgiving dinner and invited Dean’s parents, and his sister and her family.

By then my own family was scattered. My brother and sister, both out-of-state, had established their own Thanksgiving traditions. My father had passed away, and my mother was grappling with Alzheimer’s Disease.

This tradition ran its cycle until our three children grew up. I never wanted them to feel obligated to come home for the holidays but rather to establish their own traditions. After all, isn’t that what we raise them for? To live their own lives, to make their own mark in their corner of the world.

But we still celebrated the day with some of our ever-growing family. I didn’t have to cook the entire meal any longer — just bring a dish or two — and that was just fine by me.

Then life changed. Again. This year we faced spending the day by ourselves. I realize there are those for whom Thanksgiving (and any other holiday) is “just another day.” But we didn’t want it to be that way for us. We have too many good memories of Thanksgiving past.

So my husband suggested something unusual: take the day and visit the cemeteries where our parents and grandparents are buried — to thank them for what they contributed to our lives.

And with our oldest son accompanying us, that’s what we did. On Thanksgiving Day, we drove 246 miles, stopped at six cemeteries, and visited our forebears — his parents and grandparents, buried in Jefferson County, and my parents and godparents in the Mon Valley (near Donora). We reminisced — even our son had memories of these precious folks, even though I’d thought he was too young to remember.

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We drove through two cemeteries where my grandparents are buried. I didn’t know exactly where their graves were, but just driving through was like a trip down memory lane, my mind and heart making connections I’d avoided making for far too long.

No, it wasn’t morbid. It was enlightening. And freeing.

Connecting with our past, touching base with our heritage, we realized how truly blessed we are. We are what we are because of what they were and what they did.

Seeing those gravestones gave us not a sense of loss or finality, but of continuity and hope. We are, we realized, the connection between the past and the future.

“We should note the days of old. They are what mold us.” (Curt Lovelace, “Memorializing the Past, A Practice in Remembering God’s Goodness”)

Who knows? Maybe we started a new tradition: The Thanksgiving Day Cemetery Run.

Thank you, Father God, for reminding us of the rich heritage we have. Help us to pass along that legacy to our children and grandchildren. May they, too, comprehend the continuity of life. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Joshua 4:1–7.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, (c) 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Beauty in Brokenness

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. – Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)

If your place is like ours, you have a collection of broken things that have been mended—a favorite teapot or cup, a figurine, a ceramic trivet made by a grandchild.

Sometimes things can be mended so well you can barely see the cracks. Other times, slivers or shards are missing, so you display the piece with the mend toward the wall, or in a position where the scar cannot be seen.

But the Japanese art of kintsukuroi, instead of hiding the imperfections, actually highlights the brokenness. Ceramic pieces are put together not with transparent adhesive but with a lacquer laced with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.

The effect is stunning. Your eyes are drawn to the golden cracks, and the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

We all have been broken, haven’t we?

It’s called “life,” and our brokenness comes from different sources. Relationships, divorce, death, illness, accident, injury, and finances constitute some causes outside of ourselves.

But sometimes our brokenness comes from within: a hurt held onto for far too long, a physical imperfection—remember the man who overcame a disabling stutter? We see physical, emotional, and mental disabilities as flaws, as ugliness we must deal with or hide.

I’ve endured a hearing loss in both ears since I was an infant. I spent most of my life trying to hide it. I refused to wear a hearing aid until I had to if I wanted to get a college education. Even then I hid it with long hair. I learned to be a talker because if I was the one always talking, I didn’t have to struggle to hear what someone else was saying—and usually getting it wrong.

We also hide emotional and mental flaws. How long will someone suffer with a learning disability, such as dyslexia, before admitting they need help? Or bipolar disorder?

We do our best to conceal our imperfections, don’t we? If we can’t lick ’em, we hide ’em.

It doesn’t help that our society overstresses perfection. You can’t believe a photo anymore because it may have been photoshopped, air brushed, or otherwise tweaked so the subject appears flawless.

That’s what intrigues me about kintsukuroi—the artist doesn’t treat the brokenness as a flaw, but rather something to be made beautiful. The breakage isn’t concealed but brought out by the gold in the adhesive that bonds it back together. Brokenness is not something to be hidden, disguised, shoved under a rug and forgotten about, but rather something to be celebrated—a part of the object’s history.

You are what you are because you have been broken. You’re more beautiful because of your flaws. Your imperfections don’t damage you in such a way that you’re no longer useful.

On the contrary, because you’ve been broken, you can be even more useful.

How? By giving your brokenness to the Master of Kintsukuroi and let Him transform what you consider ugly into the beauty He sees in you even now.

I’ve always thought of brokenness as something ugly, something to be shunned. But You don’t see it that way, do you, Father? As the Master Potter, You see beauty in my brokenness. Help me to see it that way, too—and embrace it. Amen.

Read and meditate on Jeremiah 18:1–4.

 From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017, Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.