For those who live outside of the US and may not be familiar with Thanksgiving, just think turkey, stuffing, gravy, ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and pecan pie. Numerous variations of this basic menu will be served depending on where one resides (i.e. deep South, New England, etc.), the types of recipies passed down from prior generations, and as was in my case, the ethnic background.
My parents are Korean and as a kid, I remember the Thanksgiving dishes being along side many traditional Korean foods such as bulgogi (marinated beef) and kim chee (hot, spicy and very garlicky pickled cabbage). Doesn't that sound appetizing? The solution to this mixture of American/Asian foods was easy - two meals in one sitting. It would be fascinating to see what foods will fill tables throughout our country today. Times for this huge meal will vary. In our home now, if the New England Patriots were playing, the meal time would revolve around this game.
This year, my side of the family has gathered in Florda - renting two homes by the beach. We have traveled from Illinois, Virginia and New York to be together for both Thanksgiving and celebration of my father's 80th birthday. It is great to be together and would be perfect except for one thing. It is strange - Josh's absence is so much louder than his presence ever was. I just took for granted that we would have many Thanksgiving meals with him - little did I know it would stop at seventeen. Our kids were blessed with good health so the possibility of losing one just never occurred to me. So to be here now, sans Josh, is still too hard to believe.
From the beginning of the trip, I envision him being with us. Sacked out on the long car ride down, listening to his iPod, waking only for bathroom/food stops. In the house we are renting, his bed would be the couch - no problem as he can sleep anywhere. We would have gotten our money's worth for him at the "all-you-can-eat" pancake and sausage breakfast on the beach earlier this week. My sister's kids are younger and have looked up to Josh all of their lives. Just chilling on the beach would not have been an option as they would have pulled him into the water to jump waves and teach them how to ride the boogie board. An impromptu football game on the beach became too hard for me to watch as he would've been the star player. Strong, muscular, laughing, teasing, running, jumping, throwing and most of all - alive.
We've been eating Korean food every night, thanks to my mother's great cooking, and let just say that far few leftovers would be in our fridge if he were here. After the dinner dishes are cleared, a poker game commences. I can just see he and the youngest cousin as partners - Josh allowing him to throw in the chips, knock on the table to check, or throw in the cards for a fold.
It is not fair that these visions are only in my head and not reality. "How did we come to be here?" I ask myself. "What didn't we see? What didn't we do? What warning signs did we miss with him? What could we have done to prevent this horrible tragedy?" Then my thoughts, very predictably now, turn to questioning him. "Why, Josh, why? Why did you do this to yourself? Why did you go down this irreversible path of self-destruction? Why didn't you consider your life worth fighting for? Why did you give up on your life and future? Why did you lose hope?" I listen hard for answers, but there is only silence.
My prayer today is simple -
Dear God - thank you for the blessing of family and friends. Thank you for our home, health and livelihood. I pray that our son with with you and is at peace. Be with all of his friends who, while young, have had to deal with such a tragedy. May the impact of his life continue to be felt. May the mode of his death, if thought of by others, be tossed aside as an unviable solution so that no other family would have to endure the anguish and grief that we continually feel. Please continue to help each member of our family deal with the grief of his death while moving on with life.