Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | November 25, 2017

The Day After Thanksgiving

In Nellie’s hand on the first page of her Bible. Found in the first hours preparing for her memorial service in 2013.

“It’s that time of year” has an additional special meaning for family and loved ones of my late wife, Nellie Katherine Kyle Bowden. The day after Thanksgiving is when she had a massive stroke. She died 10 days later. It was 4 years ago.

My youngest daughter, Maggie, wrote a beautiful piece about her thoughts and emotions now. (

Today, is the day after Thanksgiving 2017. I finished the long drive from one daughter with three children’s house – and a Thanksgiving meal shared with son and his dear girlfriend to another daughter and three children’s house. It was a beautiful autumn day on the Southern roads I’ve traveled for over 45 years. I played my personal music downloaded to my phone. Each piece evoked its particular memories. When I heard “Annie’s Song,” which I sang to my wife so many times, I wept.

Grief keeps a room in my heart. And in my mind.

Meanwhile, gratitude is expanding a room, building a mansion, in the same places.

There’s a swinging door connecting grief and gratitude. An old memory or new event moves me from one to the other, back again, and more back and forth. I spend more time in gratitude today than I imagined possible. I’m grateful beyond any expectation.

I feel like I’m living the Country song, “Live like you are dying.” I’m grateful for every day. I’m more humbled than I can write with words that our Lord God would give me such gifts in daily living – I don’t deserve and haven’t earned.

Sometimes when I’m alone, I speak as if Nellie were in the room. I tell her that I love her. Then, I get busy living, especially because she isn’t here. There are two grandchildren she never loved in the flesh. There are six grandchildren and three adult progeny who need their mom. I do the best I can as Pater Familias. I’ll continue with a grateful heart for as long as I can.

I still find it hard to understand that the complete years – 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 – knew her not. There’s nothing of her in those years, except loss and grief. Yet, for me, those years are also about living – to be busy loving. There’s been a lot of living in those four years. And sweet lovingkindness.

I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve had to just love God and others. I grateful for anytime I gave lovingkindness. Don’t misread, I’m not Billy Graham or Mother Teresa. I’m just a man.

I got to experience how my friend Danny Goad’s grandfather was right when he told the young widower Danny, that “God doesn’t add to the human heart, He multiplies.”

Also, while my medical records document my aging ailments, often I feel as vigorous, alive, and excited about life as I did in my 20s. Clearly, I’m not that young and strong, but I feel “super duper, paratrooper.” I believe it comes from and with gratitude.

This day after Thanksgiving, 2017, I testify to that grief and gratitude co-exist. I praise God for His wonderful Grace. I’m grateful, grateful, grateful.



  1. Beautifully written; it captures the love, the loss, & the way that God stands ready to dry our tears and open new doors. God bless.

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