What’s Thanksgiving Without Turkey?

No, this article is not about my transition to becoming a vegetarian and no longer eating turkey on Thanksgiving, although that admittedly was a significant change that I made in my life. I really struggled with writing the editor’s column this week, particularly because transitions scare me, and I am an incredibly indecisive person. I tend to run away from anything that involves making a significant decision. I planned to write an article about not feeling pressured to make decisions in your life and how there is no deadline for getting your life together; however, I am not entirely convinced that this is true. Instead, I thought I would focus on something a bit more personal.

We all struggle with the transition of losing someone important in our lives. I lost my grandmother to cancer a little over two years ago. It was devastating to watch one of the strongest, most stubborn women I knew slowly fade into someone I no longer recognized. As the oldest grandkid on that side of my family, I definitely took it the hardest. I watched as cancer crept up out of nowhere, not only taking my grandmother but indirectly snatching a part of my father and each of the other members of my family. It was upsetting to see, and it’s not something that I like to dwell on.

Affectionately nicknamed “Turkey” from a story that my grandmother and I read when I was younger, my grandmother was one of the greatest women I have ever had the chance to meet. Turkey came to all of the important events in my life: she was there at my dance recitals and basketball games, cheered me on at my cross-country meets when I came in at the back of the pack and always sided with me when I fought with my dad. She also came to my high school graduation party and still made desserts, even though she was nearing the end of her life.

The most difficult part of losing my grandmother was celebrating Thanksgiving without her. Every year, the family on my father’s side would gather at Turkey’s house and inhale a six-course “meal,” which was more of an all-day event than one sit-down meal. Starting at noon, we would eat until we never wanted to see food again, and then would still find room for dessert. My family members are high maintenance, and among us, the dietary restrictions include at least one person who eats dairy-free, beef-free or completely meat-free and several of us who have peanut, tree-nut, fish and gluten allergies. Despite this, Turkey would have something for everyone to eat, and she would often make cheese-free lasagna, “tofurkey” or even nut-free desserts, to try to accommodate everyone. There was no going hungry or unhappy in Turkey’s home.

The past two Thanksgivings without Turkey’s smiling face and unending energy have not been the same. However, we have still found a way to celebrate the new grandchildren who have come along since then and the aspects that they bring to the holiday. Transitioning from losing someone is about appreciating those who are still in your life and forging new traditions to enjoy. Now, in Turkey’s honor, my family participates in a 5k run every year to raise money for a cure for the cancer that she had, and I look forward to participating in this run for the first time this year.

So, with the holiday season rapidly approaching (as the ads on Spotify continue to remind me), keep in mind that the traditions and the people who are important in your life may change over time. I am working to appreciate the people in my life now and the new traditions that are created with them. I encourage you to embrace the best parts of these unexpected transitions in your own life as well.