The photo you’re looking at was taken two Thanksgivings ago. That’s me in the front left, followed by my two sons, Zach and Rob, and our extended family. The old, bald guy is Marty, my father-in-law. Everybody’s smiling in this photo except for my mother-in-law, who never smiles and Marty, who at the time had very little to smile about.
He was stricken with kidney cancer and would die several months later. Marty was 80. We all knew this would be his last Thanksgiving. If you take another look at the photo, you can see that our smiles are more than a little strained. Look more closely and you can almost see the heavy sadness in our hearts.
I could list all of the great things about Marty, but it really wouldn’t mean that much to you. You had to know him and if you did, you would’ve loved him. Maybe you’ve been lucky in your life to know someone special like that. I hope you have.
Thanksgiving was the one time of year when we all got together and we’d always ask each other why we didn’t do this more often. We’d also go around the table and tell everyone what we were thankful for. It was Marty’s idea and even though we all thought it was corny, we did it anyway.
I will be with the people I love the most this Thanksgiving and we will take this photo again, as we do every year. And we will all be smiling because of the man who used to sit in the empty chair at the table. And we will all be thankful for having known him.