ONE OF MY earliest Thanksgiving memories is going to the store with my grandmother to purchase several loaves of bread to make stuffing.
I helped tear the bread into pieces and put them into a large mixing bowl. I can still smell the sage and thyme as she mixed all the ingredients by hand, mashing them all together.
After it was all mixed, she scooped some into the turkey itself. The rest of the stuffing went into bread pans. I would later find out that the stuffing that went into the turkey was the best tasting. You cannot argue this point.
Stuffing remains my favorite Thanksgiving food, and it always reminds me of my grandmother and the time we made stuffing together in her small kitchen.
When I was 20 years old, I had my first Thanksgiving away from home. I was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France.
Thanksgiving is not observed in France. I wrote my grandmother and asked for some recipes.
She had never written them down previously. Everything was, “a pinch of this,” or “a pinch of that,” or just salt to taste.”
I took her written instructions and tried making a pie crust.
When I tried to find some pumpkin filling to make a pumpkin pie, I had no luck.
I asked several French people where I could find pumpkin filling.
They were very confused.
Pumpkin is not something commonly eaten in France and they looked at me like I was crazy when I explained that I wanted to put it in a pie. I finally settled on making apple pie.
The next year for Thanksgiving, I was still in France.
Pumpkin pie is not the only thing unique to America.
Turkey is not very common and we were not successful in finding one.
We did, however, find a duck, and that was close enough.
We gathered with some other American missionaries and everyone brought something to contribute. I had learned to make a decent pie, so our Thanksgiving feast in southern France was très bien.
It has now been 30 years since that first Thanksgiving away from home.
I learned something very important during those two years in France.
Yes, I missed the turkey, the pies and grandma’s homemade stuffing. But what my heart yearned for most was being with my family.
Distance does make the heart grow fonder. Being away for Thanksgiving was difficult. I looked forward to seeing family again after my two-year mission, and I planned on taking an extra helping of stuffing to make up for it.
Currently, I am not off in a foreign land where people think you are crazy for eating pumpkin pie.
However, there is a terrible absence during the holidays this year.
It is the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without our daughter Maggie, who passed away tragically in a car accident in August.
I will be surrounded by family, and yet there will be a dreadful void.
The holidays bring a lot of joy and cheer to most people. It is a time to reflect and remember our blessings and give thanks to God for all that He has given to us.
I pray that we can be aware of those around us who may be lonely this year during the holidays.
I am confident that through the grace of God and through the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, I will one day be with my daughter again. I am sure of this.
I am so grateful for my family and loved ones this year.
I do not want to take for granted our time together.
Life is precious and our time on earth is limited.
May we express our love to those who mean the most to us, and not focus on things that do not have eternal significance and do not bring everlasting joy.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Bishop Jason Bringhurst is the leader of the Mount Pleasant Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Port Angeles. His email is email@example.com.