grateful praise

It takes a woman with an exceptionally large and gracious heart to invite 12 people to her home for Thanksgiving week when she is confined to bed with a ruptured disk– that’s my sister.

My brother and I agonized over descending upon her household but she never wavered. Every time we called she echoed the same sentiment, “Please come. You have to come for Mom.”

When my brothers’ marriages dissolved several years ago we didn’t know how to be a family anymore. We gathered for just a few hours and never took the time to understand each other. And if my parents were out of town visiting my sister we didn’t get together at all. My mom wanted to fix it, but didn’t know how.

And somehow, now that she’s gone, our hearts have broken wide open and we see how much much we need each other. Even my brother’s former wife came to San Diego.

It’s bittersweet. This is everything my mother wanted but why couldn’t we have learned this sooner? I see the miracles but I keep wondering, “Why couldn’t she just have a close call? A brush with mortality? Why did she have to die?”

We did everything we could to honor her.

The little ones set up a flower shop in Ruth’s spectacular garden.

The 10 year olds played with their 3 and 5 year old cousins– I don’t think it was a sacrifice.

Hurt feelings were quickly mended.

Boys stirred up pies.

and filled the house with music.

Grandpa supervised the butterflake rolls (still in his swimsuit– the beach photos will come on another day).

Everyone dressed for dinner.

Do I detect a little heroine worship here? Can you spy Gabe in the background?

And set the table with crystal and china. Persimmons and orange leaves became place cards.

As the sun set we lit candles.

Everyone came to the table in a goofy humor. But Ruth took charge from her bed in the corner and announced that we would begin dinner with a song. The little ones broke into a chorus of “Zippadee Doo Dah” and we joined in with laughter and silly actions, but Ruth passed out hymnbooks with quiet determination then stood at the head of the table until we grew silent.

“This is our first Thanksgiving without Mom,” she brushed her curls out of her eyes, “and this is our year of thanksgiving. A year to ponder on all the good seeds she planted in our lives. The day before Mom died, Dad and Mike and I sang this hymn at her bedside. I’ve sung this song since childhood but I never heard it until that day.”

And in her clear sweet voice Ruth sang:

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

We didn’t just cry; we sobbed. But a few people managed to sing through all three verses. My heart hurt so much that I was almost angry at Ruth. But it’s good to ache, to cry, to remember. It’s important to walk through the pain.

Someone found words for a prayer and we filled the glasses with cranberry ice.

And even with tearshot eyes. We ate.

and laughed

and tasted all of life’s sweetness.

November 30, 2009
December 7, 2009



  1. Ginnie

    December 4, 2009

    Michelle, I’ve become… well, a regular blog stalker- the non-creepy type (hopefully) ;).

    I just wanted to tell you I soak your words up. I love how raw your writing is. You get me right in the heart and make me feel it. I think about you though we’ve never met and hope your heart will find comfort.

    And now because I find being too serious awkward and uncomfortable, (I’m sure I need help of the professional kind) please do tell how you manage to raise children who actually seem to love eachother? I haven’t quite figured that one out yet. 😉

  2. Tracy

    December 4, 2009

    Oh Michelle. What a lovely, lovely day you shared. I felt it deeply in your writing and pictures. I am so glad you were all together. Your mom was smiling brightly at all of you that day.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Jeanelle

    December 4, 2009

    Dear friend, I’m crying right along with you and will never be able to sing this song again without thinking of you and your sweet mom. xoxo

  4. Annie

    December 4, 2009

    Lovely. So lovely and open. (I think I overuse “lovely” when I visit your blog but it always fits.)

  5. Sue

    December 4, 2009

    As far as I’m concerned, this was just about perfect. I’ve even had a good cry. (And I do love a good cry at Christmas.)

    Thanks, Michelle. Your family is beautiful, and I bet your mom loved looking down on you all.


  6. The Planet Pink

    December 4, 2009

    Such a beautiful hymn. One of my favorites. Thank you for sharing your sacred family moments.

  7. Travelin'Oma

    December 4, 2009

    Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your spirit with me. You have demonstrated how a person lives on after death.

  8. Linn

    December 4, 2009

    Speaking of sobbing…thank you for sharing such a beautiful experience with us. I love Ruth so much and have come to love you too. Thank you again. This was truly one of the sweetest things I have ever read and it has motivated me to do something today that I have needed to do for a long time. Love you Michelle.

  9. Alyson (New England Living)

    December 4, 2009

    Stunning pictures and stunning post! Love you, Michelle! xx

  10. Linkous

    December 4, 2009

    so beautiful. I’m so happy for you to have had such a wonderful reunion with your family–in every sense of the word. love you

  11. Mitchell Family

    December 7, 2009

    Love that picture of Will. Thank you, Ruth

  12. Selwyn

    December 7, 2009

    Thanksgiving looks amazing and wonderful – thanks for sharing yours!

    (And could you pls email me? My comp died in the move and I NEED your address!)

    xoxoxo SK

  13. ParkerMama

    December 7, 2009

    Your blog.

    It’s beautiful.

  14. Kelibby's Mom

    December 8, 2009

    Beautiful pictures and posts. Thank you!
    …a friend of Ruth’s

  15. Coach A.

    December 9, 2009

    Happy Thanksgiving Memories!

  16. Bonnie

    December 12, 2009

    I’m playing that hymn right now in my lessons…it’s a wonderful one. I love the pictures, and the post was beautiful!

  17. Greg and Erica Hone

    December 25, 2009

    I LOVE YOUR work! Are you in Utah? And do you do weddings? Engagements? BeautifuL!

Comments are closed.