It was the simplest of feasts. My family gathered around my mom’s table in Connecticut to celebrate Thanksgiving. Sitting at the head, Mom reached for her camera in the flickering candlelight and snapped our picture. Satisfied, she was. So pleased to be sharing this banquet of gratitude together, despite her being too weak to cook and having no appetite.
At 65, Mom had lost her strength and desire for food to cancer. The disease had quickly spread from her liver to her bones. I ached for God to intervene. Standing in her kitchen the summer before, she’d explained that the biopsy of a growth in her abdomen was indeed cancer. Wrapping her arms around me, she’d cried. Not for herself. Not for my brother or for me or for our children. She’d cried for people in a distant country waiting to read God’s word in their own language – a language on which she’d long labored as a Bible translator. And I cried too, afraid of losing her.
Twice a month, I made the nine-hour round trip from our house in Maine to hers at a historic Christian community outside Hartford – often with my 1- and 4-year-old sons in tow. Each visit Mom was weaker, first needing a walker, then a wheelchair. Still, I hoped that God would intervene. I believed that God healed. But would he heal my mom? As we passed steaming bowls of stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans and creamed onions on that chill Thanksgiving, Mom took so little – a dab of this, a bit of that – before waving away the pumpkin pie.
Mom never passed up pie. The next morning, her pie was still on the plate.
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living,” became my constant prayer (Psalm 27:13 NASB).
The more I looked, the more I recognized the many ways God was taking care of us, through Mom’s neighbors who opened their home to us while they were away. Through another neighbor whose daughter babysat my children, giving me quiet time with Mom. And through many others from Mom’s community and church who drove her to appointments, filled her fridge, and picked up her prescriptions when I could not.
Despite Mom’s continued decline, each day God opened my eyes to his blessings. This is the banquet to which God invites each of us: a feast filled with his presence. A chance to trust him with our easily shattered hearts, just as I chose to trust him three weeks after our small celebration, singing of God’s goodness as Mom took her last breath.
Someday we will again gather around a banquet table. Bodies healed. Shattered hearts made whole. Far from a simple feast, that Thanksgiving Day will include people from every nation, including those my mom spent her life working to reach. Satisfied, we will be. So pleased to be together. Because even though God didn’t intervene on the day of my mother’s death, he intervened 2,000 years before when he sent Jesus to make a way for us to share eternity with him. One day, God himself will fulfill our deepest longings, and we will sing a new song, voices raised together in praise of his infinite goodness.
Meadow Rue Merrill, the author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Next week she will be announcing news about her upcoming children’s picture-book series shining the light of Christ on the holidays!