How Would You Spend Your Last Thanksgiving?

If safety requires us to indefinitely forfeit the most valuable parts of our lives, what exactly are we trying to save?

“Grandpa’s Arms” by Johnny Cohen

November 26th will be the final Thanksgiving for 2.8 million (the annual all-cause death toll) Americans. It could be my last — or yours. That likelihood is significantly higher for our elderly loved ones, too many of whom will not have seen or hugged their family in nine months.

…some of whom don’t understand why.

The hard truth is that we do not know who will be around for Thanksgiving next November. What we do have is right now — this moment — today.

We aren’t promised one second more.

We’ve all seen some version of the CDC’s Thanksgiving recommendations, as well as California Governor, Gavin Newsom’s, Thanksgiving ‘rules’ by now, including masking, distancing from loved ones, eating outdoors, or — better yet — not gathering at all.

Twitter is abuzz with our newly-christened ‘expert’ class pontificating on ‘safety’ (and morality), asserting that the ‘right’ thing to do is to physically distance from our families this year.

We’ve already forgone countless once-in-a-lifetime events to mitigate a newly-minted definition of risk which takes only one variable into account.

And, all the while, we have neglected to acknowledge that many of our seniors — the most vulnerable among us — aren’t interested in the new version of safety because it costs precious moments with their families.

They already achieved quantity in life. What most of them want more than anything is quality.

Thanksgiving presents an opportunity to recapture some semblance of our humanity and remind us why we want so badly to live.

People who need hugs from their families should be able to get them. That’s not a frivolous or selfish desire to be dismissed or diminished. For many, it has become a matter of life and death.

Human connection is a biological imperative.

There’s only one ‘unsafe’ version of Thanksgiving for me and that’s failing to be present with my family — allowing weaponized shame and performative restrictions to keep us apart.

God forbid one of us isn’t sitting at that table next year, I can’t imagine grappling with that regret.

And if one (or all) of us get COVID, so be it.

We will keep calm and carry on. For our family, risk is always relative and safety is never guaranteed. Those facts have never stopped us from living true to our values, one of which is ‘family first’.

And we’re better for it.

And if despite the overwhelmingly favorable odds, lightning strikes and COVID takes one or more of us from the rest, we still won’t regret that day for a second.

Because if “safety” requires us to indefinitely forfeit the most valuable parts of our lives, what exactly are we trying to save?

Mama, writer, lover, fighter — I wear my heart on my sleeve because my pants pockets are too small.

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