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Published October 2022
By Helena Smrcek

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. For me, it even outshines the glitter of Christmas. As our family gathers around the decorated tables set with fall delights, I feel a sense of wholeness. We’re finally together, once again.

The tantalizing smells of turkey and pumpkin pie wrap around me like a warm blanket, and I can’t but be truly thankful for this ordinary, yet such profound afternoon. As I observe the familiar faces, I note a hint of maturity in some, and perhaps an additional wrinkle or two on the faces of others, yet we all share this almost tangible glow. Of course, the bounty of our feast naturally brings happiness to all, but this year, I spot a little more than that.

I recall the Thanksgiving of 2020. It was only a few weeks after my husband’s third cancer surgery, and we were determined not to miss the holiday, not even due to a pandemic. Facing a life-threatening illness tends to reshuffle life’s priorities, for most.

The family gathered in the half-built mini barn, as only limited outdoor gatherings were permitted. We used the outdoor furniture one last time before it was stored for winter. Our daughter helped me to decorate the construction site with bunches of the last wildflowers, and handfuls of colorful leaves. We ran an extension cord and plugged in Christmas lights to illuminate the space. My son’s girlfriend brought her traditional candied sweet potato dish.

While the cold October wind gushed through the holes of my future windows, we huddled wrapped in blankets, while the turkey was getting rapidly cold. As the darkness started to set in, the men of the family hauled sheets of plywood and boarded up the space. We did our best to preserve our treasured tradition while adhering to the government’s pandemic mandate. Thankfully, no one caught a cold or Covid.

When Thanksgiving of 2021 rolled around, we hoped that the guidelines would permit us to gather around a real table. Indoors. And we did, at my brother’s house, since ours was reduced to a giant hole in the ground, as the construction of our new home fell way behind the schedule. We faced one delay after another, everyone blaming Covid for every problem, of course.

As stressful as constructing a house during the pandemic was, we rapidly gained a new perspective when my sister-in-law became seriously ill. The weeks following my favorite holiday were suddenly filled with real fear. As her condition worsened, the doctors told my brother to get their paperwork in order, in case—.

We cried out to God, while struggling to keep an upbeat attitude while driving my nephew to school, helping with meals, and simple household tasks, we needed to focus on Him. Trusting God, as my brother fought to keep hope alive, and tried not to alarm his two sons, was the only way we knew how to face this crisis. I don’t know how many people rallied behind our family and prayed, only God does, and He in His mercy answered. It took weeks for my sister-in-law to come home, but she did.

Watching my family around the Thanksgiving table this year, in our new house, overlooking our little farm, and my barn, I have nothing but thanks in my heart. We all have been through the wringer during the past two years. If I learned anything from the terrible pandemic, it is to be thankful, every day, for the simplest things in life, like a morning walk with my husband and our three dogs. The little moments we so often take for granted are like pearls, strung together, as a beautiful necklace, called our life.

Thanksgiving is much like Christmas, minus the presents. But the lack of wrapping paper is a blessing in disguise, for most of us have too much stuff anyway. The absence of material gifts creates a wonderful opportunity to focus on the more precious presents, which are eternal, like our family and friends, our relationships, the good we can do for others, and the deep, and never-ending love of God.

About the author...
Helena Smrcek
, a journalist, author, and screenplay writer, believes in the power of a well-told story. Her readers can expect a captivating page-turner, filled with thrilling suspense, and heartwarming romance.

She started in publishing as a high school student, freelancing for her local newspaper. Her journalism carrier took off in 1999. Within three years Helena accumulated over 100 by-lines and interviewed Ann Graham Lotz, Carol Lewis, Cec Murphey, Kelita and others. Her stories, many of them covers, have been published in Canada, USA, Bermuda, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2002 she accepted a position at Listen Up TV, a current affairs program.

Helena became a founding member of Write!Canada, and The Word Guild, a Canadian national association of writers and editors. She is a graduate of Jerry Jenkin’s Craftsman Class, Act One, Donald Maass’ Fire in Fiction, Writer’s Police Academy, and several mentoring programs.

She regularly attends writers’ conferences and is a past or current member of such organizations as Word Weavers, American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, Toast Masters International, Boni, The Writer’s Guild, and others. Helena loves to participate in NaNoWriMo and hosts a writers’ group.

As an entrepreneur, she is familiar with marketing, branding, and social media. She has volunteered with YMCA, mentoring new Canadians pursuing their business dreams, and was an active member of her local Chamber of Commerce.

When not at her keyboard, Helena loves listening to audio books. Working on her hobby farm, and traveling. She lives in the Waterloo Region, Ontario, with her husband, two adult children, two dogs, several cats, and her favourite goat, Rosie.