Thanksgiving is upon us and with it, the usual barrage of holiday advertising. While the trend over the last years toward ignoring the fact that the “holiday” is really Christmas with all the religious ramifications, retailers don’t shy away from capitalizing on the fact that the $pending of the season benefits them.

Call it a “holiday.” Say “Happy Holidays” and not “Merry Christmas.” Include Santa and the elves, but eliminate any scenes of angels or crèches. And, of course, do not have any “Christmas trees” – they are “holiday trees.”

What nonsense, as though anyone with a scintilla of a brain doesn’t know what’s going on: the deliberate elimination of religion or God from the “holiday season.”

The same thing has been done to Thanksgiving. Instead of a day of giving thanks to the Creator for the protections the Pilgrims believed they had experienced in the New World, the holiday has morphed into “Turkey Day.”

Look at your local advertising on TV and in newspapers – and you will find nothing that even smacks of the real meaning of the day.

There are ads for restaurant specials and food market ads for turkey prices, stuffing recipes and pumpkin pies out the wazoo.

The only hint of the original day will be the print ad that shows a turkey dressed-up in a Pilgrim outfit – that’s it.

Then, of course, there are the reports that try to make us feel guilty about all the calories we might ingest on that special day, playing on our egos and all that.

And never forget the fact that some stores open on Thanksgiving, and many have big sales that day and the following weekend. Again, never mind “giving thanks” – just spend, spend, spend!

But I did get a sense of the real holiday from the homily at my church for Thanksgiving. The priest read the Gospel, and his talk focused on the fact that a major part of how we are to live our lives is to think of the “talents” – i.e. the benefits – we have in our lives and how we should express thanks for them.

In other words, don’t take things for granted. We are asked, and should, take the time to look at what we have and – as I used to say to my own children – appreciate!

How many of us really appreciate both the big and little things in our lives? How often do we review what our lives involve and what are the things that are special and should be appreciated for what they are? Not that they are financially valuable, or especially beautiful, or things that make us appear special. Just things that are inherently lovely.

An aspect of appreciating things really hit home for me when my mother died not long ago. I live on the West Coast; my only sibling, a brother, lived in Florida and my parents in Arizona.

Because of the distances, we didn’t often get together, but when my dad was sick and then passed, we were together. Then when my mother was sick, my brother and I were there for her.

He and I had the opportunity to get reacquainted and make up for those years when we didn’t see each other. We had the chance to sit and talk and remember things from our childhood and growing up. While we were helping care for Mom, we also were mending some fences between us – or at least I was!

I had the chance to apologize for the time in our childhood that I was a bratty older sister. It was something I’d felt guilty about all those years and finally had the chance to apologize. I felt so relieved. He said he didn’t remember but accepted my apology.

We sat on the porch in the evenings and just talked. It was wonderful for the two of us as we dealt with the fact that our last parent, our mother, was dying.

We were together when she passed, and we were able to deal with all the details that needed attention, and then I drove him to the airport.

We chatted all the way and made plans for the funeral and how we would handle things after that. As he walked into the jet way, I called his name and waved good bye.

I had no idea it would be the last.

A couple of weeks later, while I was at work at the radio station, I got a call from his home and was told that he “was gone.”

WHAT?! Yes, he was. Apparently he had gone into the garage to do some chore and took too long to return to the house. His wife was concerned, so she checked on him. She found him dead on the floor.

They said it was a heart attack. He had no health problems, was not sick and took no medicine.

I was stunned. He was my little brother, and he was dead with no warning. I’m not sure I’m over the shock even now.

However, I am certain of one thing and that is that the good part of my mother’s death was that it provided her only two children the opportunity to be together to renew their acquaintance and family memories.

My one regret is that I had so many more things I wanted to ask him and talk about, and now will never have the opportunity. But I do have the memories of the time we had together, when he shared so much of himself and we had time to talk.

Yes, life is filled with things that require thanks, and those are the things that I celebrate on Thanksgiving Day.

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