For as far back as I can remember—and that goes back right near the middle of the previous century—fruit salad has been one of the keystones of Thanksgiving dinner. Bits of apple, banana, peach, pear, pineapple and orange joined with grapes, pecans, coconut, small marshmallows and maraschino cherries. Love that stuff! Throughout the years of my growing up, I’d help Mom make it each year. I’ve tried to pass the tradition down with my own children and grandchildren.
It’s just one of the parts that we pass along after those we love have passed on. The homemade rolls, the bread stuffing, the roasted turkey and all the other favorite dishes become a lasting reminder of celebrations passed. Even watching football together before and after the meal is part of those traditions and will remind us of others with whom we shared exclamations and celebrations.
Inevitably, there are the absent voices, the missing plates, the empty chairs. Such is the nature of this life that there is loss, absence, emptiness. And there are adoptions, marriages and grandchildren. New relations, new births and other changes.
It is not that any or all of those can replace a single lost loved one. Nor is our laughter around the table a suggestion that they are forgotten or no longer missed. It is rather evidence that we have chosen to live on, to continue loving and continue appreciating the blessings that continue, along with the aches and losses.
That is the same thing that we did before they were taken. Even when they were with us, there were others already gone. Their parents and grand-parents, their child, perhaps. A friend from many years ago. Going back through the millennia of our existence, we have always lived in the midst of pain and blessing.
It is good that we take time to acknowledge both and pass along the traditions that remind us that through both sorrow and celebration, we love and are loved. And that something as simple as passing a dish speaks of hope.