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.

Real Treasures



“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 6:21 KJV

 I’m in the process of decluttering my house. Choosing what to pitch, what to donate, and what to keep is agonizing. The frugal in me whispers, “What if you need it someday?” while the ruthless in me shouts, “Haven’t used it in a year? Pitch it!”

I need to listen to Ruth-Less.

But as I go through closets, drawers, cupboards, boxes, and bins, nearly every item comes with a memory attached.

Oct. 20, 1973 – me on the night Dean and I announced our engagement

Like the shawl I pulled out of the cedar closet. I’ll never wear it again. I just don’t like fooling with clothing that won’t stay in place on its own. So into the “donate” pile it went.

Then I remembered: it was the shawl I wore with the dress I had on when DH and I got engaged. (There’s a story there, too, but I’ll tell you another time.) So out of the pile it came. Then Ruth-Less cleared her throat.

A friend told me if an item brings you joy, keep it. Well, the shawl itself didn’t bring joy, but the memory did. And I don’t need the shawl to remember that night. It’s firmly planted in my mind and heart.

Then there’s the tube of chocolate-flavored lip balm I keep in a drawer of my workstation. The balm is all gone, but the memory attached to it isn’t. You see, it was the inspiration for the first novel I wrote, Before I Die (retitled Mid-LOVE Crisis).

You see, DH and I were returning home from a Christmas party, for which I’d worked hard to look and smell good – in vain because no compliment was given all night by the man I’d wanted to impress. My lips felt dry, so I applied the balm. DH sniffed and asked, “Did you just open something?”

“Why?” was my cautious response.

“Because I smell brake fluid.”

How romantic!

“Before I die I want to fall in love again,” I thought, miserably gazing at the snowflakes swirling outside the passenger window.

That was 26 years ago. I’ve learned true romance – the real treasure – is not in words but in actions. Like getting up a 5 a.m. Monday through Friday, putting in an 11-hour day, then coming home to maintaining a house, eventually getting to the items on the honey-do list, and placing a stone, at my request, where he buried my precious kitty Rascal.

It’s stopping on the way home from work and picking a bouquet of tiger lilies or daffodils to surprise me. It’s encouraging me and freeing up my time so I can pursue my dream of writing. It’s supporting me in my decisions. It’s believing in me even when I don’t.

This blog didn’t turn out the way I planned. I began writing about traditions. Somehow, “traditions” led to “treasures,” and “treasures” led to DH – a treasure for a lifetime.

Good timing, too. Because today is his birthday. And I got the gift.

What are some of the treasures of your heart?

Thank you, Lord, for helping me to see clearly the real treasures in my life. Amen.

Read and meditate on Matthew 6:19–34

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.