There is no better time to prepare the most meaningful Thanksgiving ever than right now. So while you’re likely thinking about Halloween decorations, parties, and costumes, may I suggest also giving thought to that most celebrated Thursday in November.
I’ve learned important lessons in my work writing about grief and resilience, many are revealed in my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. One of the most vital is this: Being proactive about nurturing relationships – including those with loved ones who have passed away – has the capacity to drive enormous happiness.
One of the most effective tools for enhancing connections with family and friends is music. My uncle was an accomplished musician. Before he died, when he was very sick and in the hospital, he dictated a playlist to me. He called it, quite plainly, “Some of My Favorite Listening.” The music is expertly curated and deeply sentimental to my family. According to Kenneth Bilby, a former director at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College in Chicago, “Music is one of the strongest tethers we have to the past.” When I listen to my uncle’s selections, especially during the holidays, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude that he’s still able to touch my life, and the lives of my two children.
Think about the songs you associate with your loved ones. Download them now. Incorporate them into your Thanksgiving celebration.
This year, I’m adding an opportunity to draw my family even closer. Thanks to my partnership with National Funeral Directors Association, we’ll be using their Have the Talk of a Lifetime Conversation Cards.
The cards are simple, but prompt significant discussion. There are 50 cards to a deck and each one is printed with a different question. Questions include: What is the most beautiful place you have ever visited? What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you? What does your perfect day look like? The cards are free (thanks to the generosity of the Funeral Service Foundation) and you can order your deck here.
Talking purposefully with loved ones, about little things and life’s more challenging issues, amplifies what we’re thankful for – in this moment, right now. It also brings family and friends closer together. Michael Hebb, founder of Death Over Dinner, writes how important such conversations are in his essay for Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Journal. He believes “talking about death, is also talking about life.” The upside of these conversations is echoed in The Dinner Party’s important work.
As Thanksgiving approaches, don’t miss the chance to plan meaningful conversations. And if you’re curious about my uncle’s playlist, it gives me great pleasure to pass it along. Here it is.