Thanksgiving, a time to count blessings

By Lew Cohn

Managing Editor

When I was a child, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite times of year. We'd either go to my grandmother's house or have company over at ours and we'd feast on turkey, dressing, brisket and everything sweet under the sun.

The last few days of school were spent learning about the Pilgrims and the Indians and how they celebrated the first harvest in the New World. We'd dress up like Pilgrims with black paper hats or big white collars or we'd pretend we were the Indians, with feathered headdresses and long hair and breastplates.

It would be a celebration of equality, spirituality and brotherhood that would belie the rest of America's historical treatment of the indigenous people of the North American content, but we didn't know that as kids. We just enjoyed the fun of the holiday, stringing cranberries and popcorn together to hang in the classroom and reading about Squanto, Massasoit, William Bradford and Myles Standish.

As I got older, Thanksgiving was associated with football. The early game would always be played in Detroit and the afternoon game would always be played in Dallas. That night, my Longhorns would take the field either in Austin or College Station against the rival Aggies. The entire day was one giant smorgasbord of football and we'd spend the day eating, napping and watching the games, going outside to play football whenever we needed to go stretch our legs.

When I became an adult, Thanksgiving became a time to celebrate being reunited with my family after being separated from them for much of the year. I had moved away from home, gotten a job at a newspaper in the other end of the state, gotten married and had kids. Thanksgiving would be a time when I could get back to see my parents and my brother, my sister-in-law and my niece and nephew.

My parents had always told me that the most important thing we ever had in this world was family. Possessions and property come and go, but family is forever.

Eleven years ago, I experienced the worst thing any parent could go through. I lost a child just a few days after Thanksgiving. My stepdaughter Sarah had been driving to work and was running late. She took a curve on an old farm-to-market road outside DeKalb, Texas, too fast and wrecked her pickup. She died at the scene.

To show how cruel fate is as it twists the knife, the date of her death was exactly five years to the date that her biological father died in an industrial accident in Louisiana, robbing my stepson – her brother – of both his father and sister on the same date, Nov. 29.

I had to drive from Grand Saline, Texas, to DeKalb to make funeral arrangements for her and bury my oldest child. I can remember trying so hard to be stoic for my other children that my whole body hurt from denying my pain and anguish.

I was thankful then and I am thankful now that the last time I had spoken to Sarah was on Thanksgiving itself. She hadn't been able to make it to Plano to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, but she called me and spoke to the family, promising she would try to let us see her sometime later in the year. It was a promise she didn't know she would keep upon losing her life just five days later.
Trust me, readers, when I tell you this Thanksgiving, and every Thanksgiving, let your biggest blessings on the holiday be the love you receive and share with family and friends as you gather to celebrate another year together. You never know when, or if, it might be the last time you get to see each other.

From my family at home and our family here at The Highlander, we wish all of you a happy, safe and healthy Thanksgiving. May your hearts and plates be full.

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