Today, we can give thanks for liberty

Thanksgiving can be challenging to navigate for those who are grieving after a profound loss. The entire holiday season, and its accompanying tidings of good cheer, may seem inaccessible to those who have suffered the loss of a family member.

That’s true whether the tragedy occurred in the days leading up to the holiday or months earlier. The first holiday marked by an absence at the table can leave one struggling to find joy in a seasonal family gathering.

But that has been true since today’s festivities began with the celebratory feast in November 1621 often cited as the first Thanksgiving.

The previous November, a small ship christened the Mayflower arrived in the New World carrying 102 passengers. That first winter took a brutal toll; only half the passengers and crew survived until spring.

Near the first anniversary of their arrival, those who remained had a feast to celebrate their first successful corn harvest. Never mind that another harsh winter was at hand.

Despite the hardships, the pilgrims who settled in what now is Massachusetts did have something to celebrate. They had succeeded in finding a home where they freely could practice their faith, pursue prosperity and own property — including land.

Today, even for those who find pursuit of happiness to be elusive, remember the basis for that early venture into this land and give thanks for liberty. What is a birthright for us was hard earned by our forebears — some of whom lost their lives to reach a place where others could be free.