Our table was completely empty this Thanksgiving. We had planned on a family dinner here in our dining room for 8 – Gordon and myself, our three sons, our daughter-in-law, our new baby granddaughter and a friend. We cancelled Thanksgiving dinner at 10 AM on Thanksgiving Day, right when I had been expecting to put the turkey in the oven.
At 3 AM on Thanksgiving morning our 19 year old son John, just in from college, developed abdominal pain so bad that Gordon took him to the emergency room. He was admitted to the hospital. It turns out he has a place in his small intestines that’s inflamed and infected. Don’t know why. It just happened. So they put him on IVs and started pumping him with antibiotics and talked about doing surgery. That’s when I called off Thanksgiving dinner.
John was opposed to surgery because the doctor estimated a 2 week recovery time. The next two weeks are full of projects and exams that will cap off his whole semester of studies. We prayed and reassured him. And the doctor took a “wait and see” approach to the surgery, giving him 24 hours to see if things improved.
Gordon and I ate Thanksgiving dinner at a McDonald’s in the hospital. I had a salad and Gordon had a double cheese burger. Back in the hospital room, John had a few ice chips.
Strangely enough, even with cheeseburgers and fast food salads and ice chips, Thanksgiving still happened. We were grateful that John was home and not off at college when he got sick. We couldn’t help but be grateful for the emergency room doctor who was alert enough to see that John really needed help. For the medicines that can fight infections. For the medical staff who spent Thanksgiving working. Even for that awful stuff you swallow so they can see what’s going in your stomach.
As I rode down the hospital elevator to go home, two men in rough laborer’s clothes rode down with me. I smiled and said, “Happy Thanksgiving. And they responded with a hearty “Happy Thanksgiving” back. And I knew that Thanksgiving can happen anywhere.
Even in a hospital elevator amongst strangers.
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