Grief, Gratitude and Green Bean Casserole

This week as we anticipate and celebrate Thanksgiving, we reflect upon the many blessings bestowed upon us with hearts full of gratitude and joy. 

By: A Young Mother in the Diocese of Arlington

Last Saturday afternoon, as I prepared what has become my staple dish – green bean casserole – for a “Friendsgiving” dinner, I began to reminisce and reflect on the last time I prepared this particular dish, my life and experiences then and now.

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Last year my husband and I shared our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. We traveled about six hours by car to spend the holiday with his family.  And, because it was our first Thanksgiving as man and wife, I wanted to incorporate and introduce a traditional food served by my family – green bean casserole.

Last November, as I stood next to the stove in my in-law’s kitchen, meticulously stirring the bacon, evaporated milk, fried onions and green beans, inside I was dying, choking back tears and mourning the loss of a child I would never know this side of heaven. Hours later, as we went around the dinner table speaking words of gratitude and thanksgiving for our many blessings, I was saddened and tempted to despair. Not only was I feeling the emotional and physical effects of miscarriage the week prior, but we were days away from the first Sunday of Advent – four weeks of waiting and preparing for the birth of the infant Jesus. And, just in case I was able steal a minute away from the pain and take comfort in the arms of our Lord during Mass, I was now forced to sing O Come O Come Emmanuel each Sunday morning. Talk about feeling nailed to the cross. “Was this Advent or Lent?” I half-joked with myself.

As it often does, time, kind gestures and the prayers of friends and family helped to heal – not end – the ache in our hearts. By the grace of God, in the weeks and months to follow, we were able to rejoice with and be genuinely happy for those around us who announced pregnancies. And, on March 19, we were surprised with our own happy news – a positive pregnancy test.

Last Saturday, as I stood next to the stove, stirring the same green bean casserole, trying to wrap my mind around the twists and turns of the past year (all while preventing my casserole from burning), my heart was filled with gratitude for the mysterious ways in which our Lord works.  Understandably, I am grateful for the little life inside of me (due to arrive any day now), but also for the one we mourned last Thanksgiving, our intercessor in heaven, and the many blessings and perspectives that her life has brought to ours.

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This Advent season, please join me in praying with those suffering the pain of infertility, infant loss and miscarriage. Beginning on December 4, Bishop Paul Loverde will lead a Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, concluding on December 12 with a Mass at Saint Timothy in Chantilly celebrated by Vicar General, Father Tom Ferguson. For more information about this novena, click here.

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you says the LORD plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

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