A Thanksgiving remembrance

“ … just think what a precious day this was for her.”


In 2000, to mark a new century and a new millennium, I edited a monthly family newsletter, “The Page Turner.” That November, my niece Kimberly Paige Turner Runyan – “Kim” – daughter of Isaac and Glo Turner, wrote about a Thanksgiving Day in our family’s past.

Here is Kim’s memory, in her own words:

“ … And I Gave Thanks”

by Kim Turner Runyan

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of the year. My family and I always spent this special day with my paternal grandparents, Lee and Marie Turner. They had moved from their longtime home in Jackson, Miss., and their small mobile home, located in Carrollton, Miss., was always filled with food, family and loads of fun. I guess I never really thought of Thanksgiving as a time of worship and praise, but more of a mini-vacation where I would get spoiled rotten.

All this changed in 1987 when Granddaddy died. Grandmother sold their home and moved back to Jackson to live with my Aunt Mary Bell. Needless to say, my Thanksgiving tradition changed quite a lot. In November 1989, my cousin Ladd Frazier called to ask my older brother Van and me to join him for a trip to Anderson, S.C., to spend Thanksgiving with his mom, my dear Aunt Betty Jean (B.J.). I was thrilled! Aunt Betty and I had always been very close, and any opportunity I got to spend time with her was a special treat.

As we prepared to leave, Ladd told us we had to stop by Aunt Mary’s to pick up a package Grandmama wanted to send to Aunt Betty. That was a highlight of the day. I loved any excuse to get to see Grandmama. Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday, too. I might not be able to see her Thanksgiving Day, but the day before Thanksgiving was close enough to perfect for me.

When we arrived at Aunt Mary’s house, Grandmama was in the bathroom getting dressed for the day. I went in, talked to her for a few minutes, told her I loved her, retrieved the package, wished her a “Happy Thanksgiving,” and left for an incredible Thanksgiving, or so I thought.

Our trip to South Carolina was fairly uneventful. Upon arrival we were greeted by a wonderful roast beef dinner and some little gifts from Aunt B.J. After dinner, Aunt B.J., Uncle Mark, Van and Ladd decided to watch a movie. I went to bed, anticipating the next day. I had only been asleep an hour when Aunt B.J. was gently patting my arm, “Kim, honey, wake up. Grandmama has had a heart attack, and she’s gone.”

After shock wore off, the anger set in: “Thanks a lot, God, you just took one of the most precious people in my life away, and on the night before Thanksgiving, too. It was her favorite holiday, God. How could you do this to us?”

The next day, Thanksgiving Day, my favoritie holiday of the year, was spent driving back to Mississippi. My Thanksgiving dinner was a cold ham sandwich eaten at a cold concrete table at a dreary roadside park somewhere in Alabama. As Uncle Mark blessed the food, I thought to myself, “What does he think we have to be thankful for! There is no turkey and dressing. It is cold and drizzling rain. And, most of all my Grandmama has gone from my life forever.” I was about as grateful as a pig at a hog slaughter. The rest of the long trip was miserable. We finally arrived home around 11 p.m. I was totally exhausted, totally depressed and totally mad at God. Mama met us at the door. I cried my heart out as she held me close. “Kim, just think what a precious day this was for her,” Mama whispered in my ear.

“Excuse me for not jumping for joy or throwing a party!” I lashed out at Mama. “I don’t feel much like celebrating.” I stomped out and went to bed. I didn’t sleep at all that night. Memories flooded my 15-year-old mind. I remembered all the summers my brothers and I had spent with her. I remembered all the butter beans and peas we had picked out of her garden, and then shelled sitting in her living room, listening to stories of days gone by. I thought of all the times we were eaten alive by redbugs while we were picking blackberries. It was nothing “a Clorox bath and a bowl of good, hot cobbler” couldn’t heal. I remembered catching a 10-pound catfish out of Aunt Bernice’s (Bernice Montgomery) back pond, and how Grandmama cut her hands pulling the line to get it in. My mind raced to Mount Pisgah Baptist Church where she and Granddaddy had taken us so many times. How we loved those ice-cream suppers and Bible School nights! I thought of all the times she took us shopping for school clothes, and how we always disagreed over the latest fashions. The memories of her reading to us from her Bible and teaching us about her Lord would always be dear to me.

Grandmama was such a strong woman. She was strong-willed, strong-hearted and a woman of strong, simple faith; a faith that had taken her through 61 years of marriage; the death of a son; of a grandson, Michael Ralph Frazier, and of her lifelong soulmate, my Granddaddy. It was her faith that allowed her to rear five children, work hard every day of her life, and still have her whole family pressed, dressed and looking their best on Sunday mornings.

As we prepared for the funeral the next day, I felt God speaking to my heart. I sat almost numb through a very sweet, special funeral service. At the graveside, as I watched them lower her body into the earth, God touched me and my Mama’s words made sense.

When Grandmama woke that Thanksgiving morning, she awoke in Heaven, greeted by the Savior she cherished so dearly. She was reunited with Granddaddy. She probably held the little baby boy, Jesse Lloyd, God had taken from her arms so long ago. She held her grandson, Aunt B.J.’s son Michael, close and reassured him of her love for him. What a beautiful sight it must have been! What a glorious, precious Thanksgiving Day it must have been for her! How shamed I was for being so selfish.

As Uncle Mark held my hand and led me away from the graveside, I gave thanks: “Thank you, God, for this precious, wonderful, loving woman. Thank you for her life and what she meant to me. Thank you for the family she begat. Because of her, Father, I have a wonderful daddy, a great uncle, three precious aunts and a passel of cousins. Thank you for her strength and her wisdom and her loving, tender spirit. Thank you for the opportunity you gave us to learn and study about you. Thank you for taking her quickly, for not allowing her to suffer. Thank you for allowing her to come home to you on her favorite holiday of the year. Thank you, Father, for the time I had with her. And, dear God, I thank you most for her salvation and for mine and for her never-ending, undying faith!”

Thanksgiving is still my favorite holiday, but for different reasons. I know its true meaning, and I try to live each day with a thankful heart. I count my blessings more closely and praise God for each one.

Oh, and the little box we took to Aunt B.J. that day came back to me a few years later. A couple of weeks before my wedding, I received the little box in the mail. Inside were some dishtowels and a note explaining the significance and origin of the gift. Of all the presents I received that was truly the most precious and most cherished.

Dear sweet family, I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with food, fun, family and, most of all, a thankful heart! My love to you all!

- Kim Turner Runyan


Thank you again, Kim, for these words written eight years ago about a Thanksgiving 19 years ago. and for all the wonderful childhood memories you’ve shared about my mother. Your granddad and grandmother would be as proud of you as ever - of your beautiful family and that you are a schoolteacher!

And, thank you, dear reader, for taking the time.

PHOTO: Kim Turner Runyan, holding her nephew Ty Turner; with her son Blake, adopted son Quentin, son Bryce, husband Dean and son Brandon. (Photo by Debra Sims Patton)


Anonymous said...

Dearest B.J.,
Now that is a Thanksgiving Story to remember forever. Thank you for always sharing all these wonderful family stories. Happy Thanksgiving. I love you so much.

Anonymous said...

What a sweet and precious story! Thank you, B.J. As I count my blessings during this season of gratitude, I give thanks for you and all the gifts you share. I wish for you all the abundance life has to offer. Love, Faye

Tiny said...

BJ, thank you for sharing this beautiful story with your readers. Tiny always felt cheater because she had no grandparents to visit on Thanksgiving and Christmas like other kids at school.

The only grandparent (maternal) she knew died just before Christmas (Dec, 12) when Tiny was three. But Tiny remembers every thing about her. Memories she sees as plain today as she did back then. Those memories mean so much to her.

Wishing you and all your readers the Happiest Thanksgiving of your life.

Love You Bunches,

Frodoandoysterstuffing said...

A ten pound catfish? My, oh, my, what a beautiful day!
Gifts come when least expected; sometimes not recognized for years, if at all.

B.J. said...

If I had a scanner, I would have used photos of both Kim and her grandmother with their big catfish catches. I have both photos in my stairwell photo gallery! Kim’s knack for fishing came naturally. My mother never put a bait in the water that she didn’t come up with the record catch anywhere – including a crab caught with salt pork off a Chincoteague, Virginia, pier! BJ

Nurt said...

Dear B.J. - What a wonderful post. I love hearing old stories of Grandmother and Grandaddy. Of course, I could barely read it for wiping the tears away. When you and I discussed her Holiday meals just a few months ago and how we were amazed at how she was able to put on such a spread on their simple salaries, I think you pegged it. She must have planned and saved. All I know is that it was such a wonderful time for the whole family. I was just thinking the other day that this would be the first year we wouldn't have Daddy's cookies. In the last two years after he was at Trace Pointe, he would come over here and do his Holiday baking. For close reference, he jotted down the cookie, pie and cake frosting recipes on little scraps of paper, and we stuck them on the insides of my kitchen cabinet doors. So when he came to cook, we just had to open a cabinet door or two till we found the one we needed. I see them on a daily basis but it just dawned on me that we would never have "his" goodies again. I think its faith that lets me know, they know how much we all loved and miss them. Happy Thanksgiving, B.J. - Love, Nurt

Bill Sumrall said...

Dear Betty,
God bless you for this post. It reminds me how grateful I am for the strength my faith, family and friends give me in so many ways, especially this Thanksgiving, which had such a sad start when Mom and Aunt Dorothy Jean died within a week of one another.
Love, Bill