On the eve.

When I was growing up, we went to church on Thanksgiving Eve.

We’d sing Thanksgiving songs, including “Thanks to God for my Redeemer”. It’s a Swedish song, with bittersweet lyrics, including these:

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou hast denied.

True lyrics, but interesting formation for a ten-year old. I was learning from my Swedish ancestors that thanksgiving comes with remembering the challenges.

We would have a time for people to share what they were thankful for. These were early speaking times for me, talking to adults about something emotional.

And then we would have pie. Perhaps even more than the hug for having talked, I looked forward to the pie. At home, Thanksgiving meant pumpkin and apple. Not being a fan of pumpkin, and not being a fan of crust (at the time), I always hoped for store-bought chocolate cream pie, the kind with graham cracker crust. And I was seldom disappointed. Someone would always take the easy way, buying instead of making, not realizing that some of us loved store-bought.

Years later, I had the opportunity to influence Thanksgiving Eve programming. I chose the songs. I led the service. And I tried for a couple years to talk people into having pie.

And then I talked to my mom. She laughed ruefully. She talked about the migraines she always had on Thanksgiving Day. From losing sleep baking the turkey, from hosting one side of the family or another or a random collection of guests, and even from having to spend time baking pies so they would be ready for Wednesday night.

She never talked about the migraines when I was young. There is a cost for a giver, in time and love, for those things the rest of us take for granted.

I never pushed again for pie on Thanksgiving Eve.


I wrote this a dozen years ago. This is the first Thanksgiving since she died, though it had been several years since she could remember making pie. All of us, though, are struggling with disrupted traditions and are grieving the loss of family members, friends, and what we’ve always done. I understand. This is hard. But I am grateful for the memories of mom. And grateful for her permission to let go of traditions for the sake of people.

2 thoughts on “On the eve.

  1. Bill Lee

    Wonderful memories, Jon.
    Thanks for sharing them and your family with all of us.

    We will think of them tomorrow; all of the family members that you and Nancy have lost quite recently.
    We think and speak often about you in your role as a hospital chaplain in this difficult time. We pray for you and for a kinder future.


  2. Jon Swanson

    Thank you Bill. It would be so awesome to visit your living room this weekend, but we won’t. But we are thankful for you two. And all your family that feels like ours.


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