That’s the toast we make every year as we gather around the Thanksgiving table. We raise a glass to the Absent Members. They can be people who have passed away, folks we shared Thanksgivings with in years past, or family members we celebrate with every other year. The Absent Members mean everybody.
Toasting to the Absent Members can be painful. I remember the first Thanksgiving after my father died. We toasted to the Absent Members and I thought my heart would break. I cried at the dinner table in front of everyone. I hoped my mom would forego the tradition for just one year, but she didn’t. Looking back, I probably made her Thanksgiving horribly uncomfortable. I just couldn’t help myself. Sorry, Mom.
This toast can also be honorable. Last year, the newest Absent Member of our family was the LOML’s Grandma Calandro. We all celebrated together at our house because his parents were out of the state since she passed away right before Thanksgiving. As we made the toast I thought of her, felt thankful I knew her, and proud of passing on her family name with my three boys.
Sometimes it is the toast no one wants to have. This year some friends of mine have new Absent Members at their table. One is facing a separation from her husband, another lost her father a few months ago. Their Thanksgiving tables look differently than they hoped. Facing someone’s absence can make Thanksgiving seem a drudge rather than a holiday.
As I toast to the Absent Members this year, I will honor all the folks I’ve shared the holiday with in the past. I’ll also hold my friends in my heart and send them love as they feel the absence of ones they love. This year, I’m thankful my Absent Member list is full of people who brought me joy and support in this lifetime.
How will you honor your Absent Members this Thanksgiving? Are you fortunate to be with all the folks you want at this holiday? Is a job the Absent Member this year? Do you wish someone at your table would be absent and breaking bread with someone else?
However you toast your Thanksgiving, I wish you a joyful, plentiful, and thankful holiday. Blessings to you and all your Absent Members.