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Our Thanksgiving Dinner Guest Knew He Was Dying Of Cancer, But He Was Thankful

Updated on January 1, 2015
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Mary enjoys sharing events in her life that have inspired her and makes her even more thankful.


Our Thanksgiving Dinner Guest, John, Was Thankful For His Blessings

One of our guests who came to our Thanksgiving dinner knew he was dying. He had been told by his doctor that he had a short time to live. He had been through treatment and would not go through any more. He did not feel sorry for himself. He gave a beautiful thanksgiving prayer to thank God for all his blessings. In the short time I knew John, he taught me to be more thankful for the good things in my life. We can be here today, and gone tomorrow.

A Little Background To My Story

To give you a little background, I must tell you that this gentleman was part of our Thanksgiving Day Dinner. I had never met the man before our dinner. Our tradition at Thanksgiving is to have each family member bring a guest. I have a big family that includes my 4 married children and their husbands. The guest that they invite has to be someone special: A person who needs extra love and attention, preferably someone who is homeless, and someone who is “down on their luck”, or someone who is in a Nursing Home and has no one to share dinner with. You get the idea. I never know who is coming to dinner, and I never know how many people will show up to share our dinner. My daughters bring the vegetables and salads. I cook turkeys, ham, and the pies.

It’s an exciting day for me. Before Thanksgiving Day I cleaned my house from top to bottom. I polished the silver, and got out the good linens. The antique blue crystal is washed and dried. I started making pies the day before, and the turkeys are in the oven to start cooking early in the morning on the big day. Wednesday, the men in the family came and helped me clean off the 4 picnic tables we have in the back yard. The weather report called for a warm, sunny day for Thanksgiving. I was grateful for that news. We will have to eat outside to accommodate all these people.

I had told my family to come with their guests ready to eat by 2 P.M. I expected about 25 people to come to dinner, but we wound up with a total of 42 guests. That was because my children found it hard to choose just one person to bring, so they each brought more than one guest. That was fine with me. I knew there would be enough food.

I Meet John

One of my daughters had warned me that she had chosen a man who was dying of terminal Pancreatic Cancer. His name was John. His doctor told him he would not live long. He lived alone in a rented room. He had no family. I secretly dreaded meeting this man. What could we possibly talk about? What could I say to him? I was sure it was going to be very awkward for everyone.

When I was introduced to John, he gave me a warm hug, and thanked me for inviting him. He was fresh shaven, and smelled of nice after shave. He was dressed in clean casual pants and a nice long sleeved cotton shirt. I guessed his age at around 55. His hair was very thin and grey. I thought he probably had received chemotherapy treatments that had caused him to lose his hair. He was quite thin.

After everyone sat down to eat, my son in law gave a beautiful prayer of thanks. One of my daughters said, “Let’s each one tell what we have to be thankful for this year.” I wanted to kick her under the table. I immediately thought of John. What could he possibly be thankful for knowing he was soon to die?

When it came time for John to speak, he stood and bowed his head and closed his eyes. He prayed one of the most beautiful prayers I’ve ever heard. I wish I could remember his exact words. He gave thanks for his new friends. He gave thanks to God for allowing him to live long enough to be a part of our family on this special day. He gave thanks for all his past blessings, and he asked God to forgive him for any wrongdoing he might have done in his lifetime. He closed his prayer by saying to God, “I’m ready to go now.” No one had a dry eye when he finished his prayer.

John played with his food. He wanted me to think he was eating the food we had prepared, but it was obvious he just couldn’t eat very much. Everyone finished their dinner, and we were just sitting around talking and waiting until they had room for the pies. When you have a crowd of lonely people they are so thrilled to have someone to talk to it’s like they are making up for lost time. They become chatterboxes. John made an effort to socialize with the other guests, but I could tell he was getting very tired. He went over to my daughter who had brought him, and whispered something to her. She came to me and said that John needed to leave because he was quite tired.

I Tell John Goodbye

At the door, John hugged me as tightly as he could, and thanked me again for inviting him to dinner. I was fighting back tears when I told him how happy I was he had come to our Thanksgiving dinner. When he turned to go, I knew I’d never see him again. I knew Pancreatic Cancer would take another life.

John Dies

My daughter called me at 6 AM the next morning to say that John’s landlady had just found him. He had died in his sleep during the night.

This is one Thanksgiving I’ll never forget. I will never forget John. People come and go in our lives. Some people add to our lives. I think God sent John to us to make us all more thankful for our blessings. We all realize that we can be here today and gone tomorrow.

I have these dinners for selfish reasons. I get far more than I receive by opening up my home to special people who just need someone to care. I wish I could have known John longer. He could have added a lot to my life.

Our Thanksgiving Tradition Will Continue

About a year ago, I downsized from my house where we held our Thanksgiving dinners. I now live in a small apartment. I miss my old spacious house and yard, but one of my daughters who has a large house will be the hostess this year.

It makes me happy that my children want to continue to welcome other people to our bountiful table to share a meal with us. I hope they will carry on our Thanksgiving traditional dinner and invite other people who need love.

© 2011 Mary Hyatt


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