Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanks for Giving us a Break

It the Monday before Thanksgiving. It's a time when grocery stores advertise their specials on turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pies. People are hard at work on a short week to meet all sorts of deadlines, finish projects they've been procrastinating on, and striving to feel that they can justify taking off one or three days this week to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Some will wear themselves out cooking and entertaining at their homes. Others will round up the kids, pile into the family car carrying casserole dishes and desserts, and drive however long it takes to get to grandma's house or auntie's or whatnot. College kids may or may not return home, and many will feel the stress of trying to get along with people they'd rather avoid all in the name of "giving thanks".

Let me tell you a story about Giving Thanks.

In 1991, a very respectable family in Branson, Missouri was gathering over Thanksgiving for just such a holiday. The eldest daughter had returned from college, and the youngest daughter and only son were enrolled as a sophomore and a junior in high school, respectively. The father was a very successful man in the insurance industry, and for the life of me I cannot remember what the mother did. I do know that she had recently struggled with cancer and subsequent depression. It was widely rumored that she took lithium and prozac -- prescribed by two different doctors that had no idea of the other medication. It was widely believed that the cocktail mix of lithium and prozac played a strong role in the holiday's concluding events.

What I can tell you with absolute certainty is that on the morning of December the 1st, the last day before the eldest daughter was to return to college, the mother rose early, retrieved a gun that she had recently purchased, and walked into her daughters' room, shooting each of them in their beds. They died instantly. The noise woke her husband and son, and in the confusion, both son and husband were shot, although one did manage to get a call to 911 off during the battle. She then turned the gun on herself and killed herself. It is also rumored that she had made comments along the lines of "wanting her family to walk through the pearly gates of heaven arms linked".

The husband died on the way to the hospital from his gunshot wound. The son, in another ambulance, went into a coma, where he remained for two weeks. When he woke from his coma, he was to learn that not only was every other member of his immediate family dead, but that the funerals had already occurred as well. He was the sole inheritor of his father's insurance policies -- small consolation, if any.

His younger sister was his best friend. I can tell you that with certainty. He was close to every member of his family. He was an orphan by violent means, and by his mother's own hand.

His younger sister, Mary Beth, was a dear friend of mine. She called me "bootiful". We were in high school, so when bored, we wrote notes to each other in class. Her notes always ended with "Margo, you're so bootiful!" and each one game me reason to smile.

Mary Beth was a vibrant blond-haired blue eyed sweetheart with an incomparable heart for compassion and joy. She was intelligent, talented, and well-liked. Her smile could light up a person's heart. I did not know her brother much at all, despite my friendship with Mary Beth. But I know how much she loved him, and she only loved those she deemed worthy of it.

She was sixteen years old that Thanksgiving. Her sister was nineteen. Her brother was only seventeen. He struggled with school after that, and became a bit reckless, but as I can only speak on the personal observations I had, I will not elaborate at all. I hear he has graduated college, married, and has begun a family of his own. I hope he has and wish him well.

While the rest of us struggle with dry turkey and instant potatoes at dinner tables we'd rather not be at, let us try to remember that in an instant even the opportunity to give thanks can be taken away from us. Let us try to remember that even if we don't like our family, don't respect them... that they are indeed family, and take a moment to honestly be thankful for what we do have, instead of lament it.

1 comment:

Dach said...

Mom was a stay-at-home that did a lot of volunteer work in Branson. I can say with all honesty, I couldn't bring myself to go to the funeral back then.
I guess I had to pay my dues last year.