Welcome to the banquet table of giving thanks

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We hadn’t expected to go to the hospital in the middle of the night, although frankly, that’s when all our babies decided to arrive.

We were due – and admittedly, my wife was a lot more “due” than I was – to report to the hospital the next morning. But there we were, racing down the highway, flashers flashing, making a midnight run to Labor and Delivery.

It had been a hard pregnancy, to say the least. Early on, we nearly lost baby, and mom. They were in the hospital together for three months, and together, they endured two bouts of brain surgery. At every turn, doctors braced us for bad news, and for a while, their warnings had been on target.

But mom and baby survived, and by New Year’s Eve, mom was learning how to walk again. She was skin and bones after the long hospital stay, with the exception of the basketball she seemed to be hiding under her smocks. She’d had the shortest haircut of her life, thanks to the brain surgery that required a scalp shaving on one side of her head. Her vision wasn’t perfectly restored, so she often had to wear a corrective eye path. She looked a little like a malnourished, pregnant pirate.

She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.

When you nearly lose someone, and live to see the day when you get another day together, beauty is in the eye of the holder. And I was holding her tighter than I ever had.

So the day finally came when the doctors decided the pregnancy had progressed far enough. They’d induce on Friday, they said, and we were due at the hospital by 7 a.m. Baby decided she wanted to do this on her own. We got to the hospital six hours early.

We had a fairly short session of labor – again, my wife had significantly more labor than I did – and by daybreak, we were getting to know our second daughter.

In time, she nestled into her mother’s arms and the three of us were tucked away in a small room. As I remember it, there was a rush on babies that morning, and the staff had their hands full. We were in a holding pattern. Mom was holding baby, and I was holding mom, and for the longest time, no one bothered us.

It went on like that for maybe 45 minutes. Sometimes we talked about the past nine months, and how nerve-wracking the entire ordeal had been. Sometimes we just looked at our daughter and wondered what the future held. We also prayed. We gave thanks for the miracle of life – of two lives – and gave our baby back to the One who had loaned her to us.

A nurse popped in at one point, saw that we were still waiting, and said, “Do you want me to get some family out in the waiting room?”

“No thanks,” I said. “They don’t even know we’re here.”

“Oh my,” said the nurse. “You’re going to be in lots of trouble!”

That seemed to be my cue, and we started making some of the best phone calls of our lives. But to this day, those 45 minutes of quiet, private joy remain the very best “Thanksgiving” memory of nearly four decades of marriage.

We learned a lesson that day. It doesn’t have to be November and you don’t need a turkey in order to have “Thanksgiving.” Giving thanks is in season no matter what day it happens to be.

And yet it is the season of Thanksgiving.

So come to the banquet table of giving thanks. Spend time with someone you love this week and replay your favorite “Thanksgiving” moments.

The stories will do you good. And even in sharing them, you’ll have yet another reason to give thanks.