Leftover turkey is like a year of great coffee chats

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 10, 2007

I’m writing this week’s column on Thanksgiving Day. Actually, we had our family festivities yesterday, with my wife Mary Anna’s famous turkey and all the trimmings. And I bet you’d never guess what we’re feasting on today. That’s right! Leftover turkey – one of the truly great delights about this annual celebration. It extends the happiness of our family gratitude over many more days, and like the big day itself, it continues to leave a good taste in our mouths.

Which brings me around to the good taste this column continues to leave in my mouth long after the actual date of publication. I’m not thinking about the good taste of anything I myself have written, of course, but the good taste of your conversations with me, both leading up to and following publication.

I’ve spent much of today organizing my Coffee With Warren e-mail correspondence files. This has given me a good chance to review your contributions to our discussions over the past year – contributions for which I am profoundly grateful.

You’ve shared with me your dreams and hopes, thoughts and reflections, hobbies and reading, triumphs and struggles. You’ve enthralled me with stories from your youth and wisdom from your years. You’ve helped me grow as a human being amidst often bewildering circumstances.

As I reviewed notes and letters, I sensed that health has been an especially dominant concern for many of you since Thanksgiving 2006.

A middle-aged reader was found with a football-size tumor in her abdomen. This was removed, and during her recovery she learned anew what wonderful, helpful neighbours she has, as they drove her shopping, cared for household chores, and in other ways affirmed her value among them.

Quite a few coffee companions have been slowed down by arthritis and joint injuries from their earlier days. Several had hip and knee surgery. It’s been wonderful seeing them walking sprightly into local coffee shops, so happy for the benefits of modern medicine.

One of our readers, an artist and fiddle player, nearly lost his left hand recently to a power saw in an industrial accident. His fiddle-playing days may be in jeopardy, but he paints with his right hand and is already returning to his canvases with renewed vision.

Speaking of vision, some of our readers had surgery for cataracts and other eye problems. For the most part, they’re seeing almost perfectly now, although some with glaucoma and macular degeneration are learning to cope with blindness, grateful for the years when they could build up visual memories.

A few have had open-heart surgery or pace-maker implants. Just this morning I bumped into one of our coffee companions whose heart rate had dropped dangerously low following his own surgery, a cause for some considerable concern both to him and to the medical team. He was back to full health when I saw him. The doctors had tuned up something or other inside him and restored his heartbeat to normal.

Sadly, over the past year some of our readers have passed on, and we will miss them. Yet sharing from the autumn of their lives, they left a legacy of experience and insight that has enriched many. We name each of them in our hearts with thanksgiving, grateful that God loaned them to us as light for our own all-too-short journeys.

Did I say “autumn” in the context of life’s journey? More than simply having a feast at the end of harvest, celebrating Thanksgiving mid-autumn draws special attention to the complex of beautiful moments that have brought us this far, moments whose joyful fulfillment is found in the grander scheme of things – in the seasons of life, and life beyond.

About this, wheelchair-bound Edmonton coffee companion Barbara Stevens sent me a poem she wrote this fall, inspired by the berries on the brilliant mountain ash trees in her yard:

in the spring,
the pale green berries
herald the birth of the leaves

during the warm summer,
the berries mutate
into deep orange globes
reflecting the sunlight

with autumn’s arrival,
the clusters of berries
become a brilliant red –
changed by the cool temperatures

lush and ripe,
they wait for winter’s chill

by mid-winter,
the waiting is over…
hundreds of cedar waxwings
feast on the claret colored berries

a new period of waiting begins…
the waiting for spring
to continue the cycle

Thank you, Barbara, for the inspiring words. And thank you, all of you, for sharing the journey.

© 2007 Warren Harbeck

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