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Quite the World, Isn't It?


"The First Thanksgiving," Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
There's been a lot of sadness in the neighborhood recently. A couple of weeks ago a neighbor two doors away died after a short and furious battle with cancer at the age of 86. A close friend of our next-door neighbor to the east dropped dead at age 37 (the same week, the neighbor says, that his family lost a longtime friend to cancer). Then yesterday, one of two sisters (in her 50s, I believe) who live next door to us to the west died after a long and particularly brutal fight against cancer.

Like I said, there's been a lot of sadness in the neighborhood.

There's a tendency amid such sadness to do the Pollyanna thing, and to mouth words that do little more than touch the surface. It's not a religious rite but it's a ritual all the same, this passing of condolences. And as heartfelt as it might be, I suspect it offers very little in the way of balm. Time, as we know, is the only healing agent that works. Though having people recognize your grief means something, I suspect, to the grieving. As does a hug. And a glass of wine.

So on this Thanksgiving, be thankful for the time you've had with those you've lost, and for the life you have. It's more fragile than you might think.

And recognize that the legend of the Native Americans whose generosity saved the early European settlers carries a significant lesson about helping those in need. This nation was founded on a wide range of personal impulses, from the desire for religious freedom to base greed.

But it survived because of the help of others - even those who had good reason to fear us. It's a human impulse we should embrace more often.
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