There are moments in our lives that forever mark our memories and touch our hearts.

In the midst of all that has and is still unfolding in our lives during 2020, sometimes it’s a child that teaches us the greatest lessons we should have already learned as adults. So let me share two brief stories that happened this week…Perhaps they’ll give you a special smile as you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving in safe ways.

First is the story of Finn, my 5 year old great-nephew.  He has 3 siblings so their immediate family is comprised of 6 persons. His Dad came home last week and said to his family in a teasing way, that the governor has indicated only 5 people could gather for Thanksgiving ( he was kidding…the recommended number is 10).  So, he asked the kids, “Who should eat out on the porch?”  Little Finn counted and said, “But Daddy, there’s 6 of us”.

So his Dad said, “Right, so should we have Mom eat on the porch”?  Finn seemed particularly concerned and said, “But Daddy, she’s our Mommy and she needs to eat with us!”

What Finn apparently missed while others understood, was that his dad said he was only teasing.  However, the story continues to the next day and obviously was something that Finn has thought about overnight. The next day, he asked my sister, who they call “Nana as grandma” and “Pa as grandpa”, how many people would be at her house for Thanksgiving.  Finn started counting….when he realized there would only be 4, he says, “Nana, can I come eat with you so my family can eat together?”

Oh my goodness!  I got all choked up when my sister shared this experience.  Out of the mouth of a child comes the pure example of love, sacrifice, creativity and care for others.  Finn understands the need for caution and sacrifice so that others can be safe.

My second Thanksgiving story is from our great-niece and great-nephew, Ellie and Eli, who are 3 and 4.  Last Saturday, just a day after Steph came home from hospital after more emergency surgery, they were going to come and give her hugs and kisses. Unfortunately, at about the precise moment they arrived, we were getting a phone call from the county health dept., informing us that Steph was once again exposed to COVID on her floor in the hospital and that we would have to quarantine Steph, etc.

I was still on the phone when the doorbell rang and had to yell so they could hear me beyond the closed door, “Please don’t come in”.  I hung up the phone and went to the door where Eli, Ellie and their Moms were waiting.  I explained with tears in my eyes that I had just gotten off the phone with the health dept ( code for COVID exposure ) so Darcy and Missy would know. I explained they couldn’t come in today because Aunt Steph “wasn’t feeling well”….no need to tell the little ones all that was going on.

However, Eli looked very puzzled because he understood she had just come home from the hospital and said,  “But why is Aunt Steph sick?  She just came home from the hospital.  Aunt Steph is home and we want to hug her”.  Something didn’t add up in his curious mind.  And Ellie, whose birthday it was, informed me as she kept peeking around the door, “ I want to kiss Aunt Steph”.  They both looked so sad, but somehow instinctively knew that we needed to keep Steph safe.  (Of course, I also assured her she’d get her birthday gift and they would both get their long overdue Halloween treat).

Ellie, the persistent one, also said again, “I want to give Aunt Steph hugs and kisses”.  We assured them we would FaceTime later….and we did.  And yes, Ellie showered Steph with multiple FaceTime kisses on the IPAD.

Caring, sacrifice, love, creativity was revealed by children once again.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we, as adults, could live and exhibit such virtues so that others can be safe and still know they are loved?

Yes, Steph and I will be alone on Thanksgiving, but we will be surrounded by the caring warmth of all Steph‘s caregivers who are here other days….

Yes, we will be saddened by the emptiness created from the deaths of my Mom and Sister Pauline whom we lost days apart in March, but we will be surrounded by memories of how they showed their love to us over the years….

Yes, we will continue to struggle with Steph’s serious infections and healing challenges, and the incredible worry this is because we don’t know if she will be cured,  but we will be deeply indebted to the amazing circle of friends, family, our Mission of Hope family, and our Dominicans of Hope, who are sustaining us with a circle of HOPE and PRAYER….thanks giving indeed!

And YES, we recognize that our experiences and our life journey is not unlike hundreds of thousands of others whose lives are impacted by loss, separation, illness…. AS Well AS LOVE AND COMPASSION AND SACRIFICE AND KINDNESS.

Jesus once said, “Let the children come to me”, and children seem to love to go to Steph.  Perhaps part of Jesus’ message was that the pure hearts of children and the love they exude, are the blessings we often overlook.  May we live HOPE and gratitude… and joy and love… like the children in our lives!

May we live that prayer in HOPE!

Sr. Debbie