Thanksgiving is not just about a turkey dinner ...
The following article is a revision of a chapter excerpted from In Memory of Ben and will be published in the November 1, 2007 edition of Living With Loss, Bereavement Publications
"Every Day is Thanksgiving"
While our nation celebrates Thanksgiving on the fourth
Thursday in November, as a Jew, I give thanks every
morning upon awakening by saying: “Modei ani lefanecha,
melech chai vekayam, shehechezarta bi nishmati b’chemla-
raba emunasecha – I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal
King, for You have returned my soul within me with
compassion … abundant is Your faithfulness.”
How does this observance of “Jewish Thanksgiving” differ
from that of our national holiday? The primary difference
is one that goes to the very core of Jewish religious belief: we
thank Him “yom yom- every day” by praising His name in good
times and bad.
Let’s be clear: I am not suggesting that Jews welcome
bad tidings. However, when they do happen, our faith in His
“rachomim and din-mercy and justice” encourages us to
remember that, though current circumstances appear dark
and foreboding, bad tidings do turn out for the best. We do
not, however, make any attempt to minimize the pain of
Almost two years ago on November 22, 2005, I received an email from my dear
friend Jan, who wrote:
Dear Alan...you are in my thoughts and prayers today. I know what you are thinking about, and that you are missing Ben. I remembered that it was five years ago...an eternity, but as if only yesterday, for you. He was a beautiful boy, who wanted so much to be his own man...and he was. How else could he have endured so much, and yet still, was willing to give so much of himself? The true measure of a man is to be able to love unconditionally...and he did...and you did, even though you may feel, in retrospect, that it took awhile for you to finally reach that stage. I said "may feel", and "finally", Alan, because I know that you ALWAYS loved Ben unconditionally. The times that you were embarrassed by some of the ways that Ben chose to express himself, were only that...an embarrassment...not a failure on Ben's part, or yours. You only wanted what was best for Ben...what you thought was best. That kind of love is the greatest gift that anyone can ever give or receive...and you and Ben gave that gift to each other.
I did not find anything Jan had said disagreeable. Her note revealed a
keen insight into the life of my late son Ben, alav ha shalom, and my
efforts to chronicle it. There was something troubling me though about
the date of the note, Tuesday, November 22, 2005, and Jan’s reference
to “today” in her opening sentence.
Later that evening, my fiancé and I were sharing a coffee.
“So how was your day?” she asked.
“Oh, okay I suppose,” I said, but before the conversation went
any further, it hit me. It finally made sense.
I realized that although the calendar date, Tuesday,
November 22, 2005, marked the fifth anniversary of my son’s
passing, it had been the week DAY, Wednesday, the day before
Thanksgiving that forever underscored the tragedy imprinted
on my heart.
In keeping with my belief about the presence of balance
and order in our world-though we may not perceive them
readily at times-our lives are not at the mercy of random
collisions of chance. You may even wonder about any
demonstrable proof I may have for this assertion. Well, I
haven’t any, but unlike the strict standards of scientific proof,
I submit the gift my daughter Kimberly shared with me that
I will never forget the excitement and glee in her voice. It
not only struck a welcome chord to complete this day, to
make the circle whole but reaffirmed my belief in how we give
thanks to the Master of The Universe who reawakens us every
morning to experience both good times and bad in our lives.
“Daddy, I got a job as a lawyer in a downtown firm! I’ll have an
office with a view from the 39th floor overlooking downtown. It’s
just what I wanted!”
“Kimmy Babe, that’s wonderful sweetheart. Mazel Tov.
I’m proud of you.” I rejoiced.
“Thanks Dad! Talk later, okay?” she ended.
That sums up, rather succinctly what happened on
November 22, 2005, when divine balance manifested itself
dramatically, affording me the opportunity to experience the
joy and love of both my children on what was the worst day
imaginable just five years before.
“Modei ani lefanecha …”