Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Dancing with Turkeys

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, dances with a turkey.I WILL make a turkey for my son for Thanksgiving. Even if I’m wailing during the whole process. Even though my son and and I will be feasting elsewhere for the holiday. I will roast a turkey. I want to have a huge platter of bird in the fridge. A plate full of turkey in our own home means we are okay, that our tiny family is surviving, that life goes on.

This will be my fifth Thanksgiving without my daughter. I’m learning how to handle it.
Remembering Marika in the kitchen tearing breadcrumbs for the stuffing and baking carrot cake, I’ve learned that one can simultaneously grieve and be grateful. Last year I called it Thanksgrieving. This year it is Dancing with Turkeys, as I dash all over town to dine in three different households before coming home to the turkey in my fridge.

Here are my holiday tips for grievers:

  1. Treat yourself like you’re the guest of honor. Our beloveds won’t be seated at the table but they are seated in our hearts. So carry on the way they would want and be good to your self.
  2. Allow yourself to cry. Let the pain gush out in tears. Pull out old photos, phone your sister in Florida to reminisce, chop onions, and cry like a lemon being juiced.
  3. Allow yourself to smile, maybe even laugh, at the memories of sweet times. Remembering and making memories are the real gifts of holidays.
  4. Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. What are the lessons you learned from your loved one? What was gifted? What has changed your life?
  5. If you can’t find something to be thankful for, do something nice for another. The most joy can come from giving someone else something to be grateful about.

So go do this holiday, my friends. Whether you gather with others, or chow down your dinner standing alone over the kitchen sink, I am sending you my warmest wishes. We are going to be okay. We are surviving. Life goes on. You are not alone.


How do you grieve and be grateful at the same time?

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Healing from Loss: Catawampus

Catawampus Robin botie in Ithaca, New York, holds her her daughter, Marika Warden, her Aunt Bope as a girl, and her dog.

A friend lets go of her walker and slowly backs into the passenger seat of my car.
“I’m all catawampus,” she says, after she lands slumped at an awkward angle and I try to adjust the seatbelt around her.
“What a great word,” I say, thinking that’s exactly how I feel sometimes. Especially in the holiday season when everyone else is dashing out to go shopping while I sit home hugging my dog. My friends are making toasts over Thanksgiving and I can only think of my Uncle Martin who just died. I’m out of kilter. Catawampus.

“You got through all of your troubles,” says my Aunt Bope, days later, at the gathering after her husband’s funeral. At the cemetery, family and friends had taken turns shoveling soil into the grave. I’d watched her high heels sink into the soggy ground as my cousin helped her lift the shovel.

“You will too. You’re strong,” I say over a plate of fruit salad and rainbow cookies. She shakes her head, no. I look  into her eyes that are so like my own. “We both are,” I insist, pointing out that her mother, my Omi Rosie, was the strongest person we ever knew. But I wonder how she will get over this. She was happily married to Martin for 66 years, over 2/3 of her lifetime. The 20-year-old daughter I lost was with me barely 1/3 of my time. That’s been hard enough.

“You’re young,” she says. “It’s different.”
I look at my feet and don’t know what to say. I do feel young. Now. But I remember how unsteadily I walked on the frozen mud when my daughter died. The ground was uneven and ungiving. Back then I couldn’t find enough to hold onto and did not want to face another day.

To my Aunt Bope … to the friend of a friend who recently lost a daughter … to another dear one who wonders how her world disintegrated … to all of us who carry sadness during a season that is shocked by bright lights and raucous cheer, I just want to say:
Do not think your life is over or that you will never laugh again. The pain of loss will soften. Life will not always be catawampus.

I look down, speechless before my aunt. That’s when I notice —

“Stay strong. Take care of yourself. And eat,” I say, feeling less worried.

— My Aunt Bope is still wearing her heels.


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