Within the past 48 hours, tragic death has touched three members of my far-extended family. These weren’t people I know, for my relationship to them is very tangential – a cousin-in-law’s step-daughter’s cousin, for example – but their deaths on or near Thanksgiving Day are stark reminders that life itself is something to be cherished, something for which to thank God.
Death doesn’t ever wait for a convenient time, and the number of tragedies connected to holiday celebrations seems to climb each year. Or maybe I just notice them more as I grow older. But this connection between joy and sorrow is nothing new. The Psalmist often combined lament and sorrow with praise and thanksgiving. The paradoxical connection between expressing personal pain and giving glory to God in all circumstances weaves its way throughout the biblical narrative. Grief and rejoicing are not such strange bedfellows. This is why a New Orleans funeral dirge turns into an amazingly joyful Dixieland dance when the saints go marching in.
As your holiday weekend draws to a close, as the shopping spree ends and the turkey leftovers move into smaller containers in the refrigerator, please take a moment to look around the room at those who share your day-in, day-out routines, and thank God for them. Show them how much you love them. Show them how much God loves them. Take nothing for granted. Life is precious. Thanks be to God.