So much to be thankful for
Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, but business as usual for Bermuda. There’ll be no official turkey pardoning or Thanksgiving parade down Front Street. Still, many Bermudians find their own way to celebrate the holiday. Some get turkey dinner takeout, some just say a quiet thanks for their blessings, while others throw lavish family dinners.
Here The Royal Gazette asked families what they are thankful for this year.
Salvation Army stalwart Calvin Ming thinks he might have more reason than most to celebrate Thanksgiving.
At the age of 45, doctors predicted he only had eight years to live.
“I was diagnosed with acute heart failure in 1992 and in 1993 I had a very difficult heart transplant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” said Mr Ming.
“I almost died several times on the table. They had to use a special machine to keep my heart beating.”
Twenty-four years later he’s still here, having also survived a kidney transplant in 2011.
“I’ll never forget the first Thanksgiving after having a heart transplant,” he said.
“We spent it at the home of our pastor in Pittsburgh, Major Elizabeth Reed. I remember it was a very emotional time for me. I was just grateful to be alive.”
Since then he’s often felt gratitude for defying the odds, but most especially on Thanksgiving.
“Thanksgiving is a special time when my family can openly say thanks for things,” he said. “I am especially thankful to my son Calvin Ming III who donated his kidney to me. My family has a lot to be thankful for.”
His family planned to spend this Thanksgiving at a church dinner.
“I’m thankful not just to God for sustaining me, but also to all of the people who have helped me and my family along the way,” he said. “Sometimes we need a little practical help.”
Sheila and David Semos were also grateful for good health this year.
The couple are well known for running the Boys Brigade at St Paul’s Church in Paget, and Mr Semos also teaches archery.
“David found out he had prostate cancer in March 2015,” said Mrs Semos. “He had surgery that year, then the next year 2.5 months of radiation. He has his last hormone treatment next February.
“I am particularly thankful this year for our family, friends and all the doctors and nurses, both in Bermuda and at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, who have continued to support and help my husband, David, through his health challenge over the last two years,” she said.
Mrs Semos said as children, she and her husband never celebrated the American holiday, but they were introduced to it when their younger son Mark married an American.
“Sadly, we cannot be with them this year,” said Mrs Semos. “Hopefully, we will be with them next year.”
Instead, this year they will spend the holiday in Bermuda with their older son Jason.
“He works at night at the Aquarium so we always take dinner to him and eat with him there,” she said.
Some Bermudians, such as lawyers Timothy and Georgia Marshall, take a light hearted, approach to Thanksgiving. “My wife, Georgia, and I are big fans of the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Mr Marshall. “Most years we honour the occasion with good friends, many of whom have happy memories of growing up in the United States.
“It’s my favourite gathering as it is all about reflecting upon and giving thanks for our personal and shared blessings.”
He was thankful for his children, family and friends, and the good fortune of living in Bermuda.
One of his favourite Thanksgivings was the year his son mischievously read out a poem before the blessing of the food.
“My son, Zack, who was seven at the time, entertained us with his poem that went something like this, ‘A hot dog without a bun is like a day without sun. Please let me have some fun and give my lonely dog a bun’. A mischievous bow was accompanied with much applause. We ended with a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson. ‘For each new morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, for health and food, for love and friends, for everything thy goodness sends’. Thanksgiving is a wonderful tradition.”
Dream expert Holly Paiva said thanksgiving is her favourite holiday.
“I normally always celebrate with a huge feast with family and friends at my house,” she said. “This year is the first year in over 20, that I won’t be celebrating on the actual day. I will be cooking a turkey and a couple of lobsters on Sunday to have with my loved ones before heading to the Christmas parade. This year, I am thankful for all of the experiences that I’ve had that have brought me to where I am. I am thankful for my loving children, family, and friends both near and far. I am thankful that my American mother, Gwen Paiva, introduced me this tradition. She died six years ago.”
Shari-Lynn Pringle who runs I’m Your Person, plans to buy a Thanksgiving meal from the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute this year and eat it with her family.
“It is yet another occasion for us to be together,” she said. “Both my older sister and I have American children so even though we don’t do a full-blown soul-food type event (that happens at Christmas) we always try to get together as a family whenever time permits. With the chequered history of Thanksgiving, I don’t recognise it as I once did but am thankful daily for the love of family and friends.”
Debi Ray-Rivers, founder and executive director of charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, said being both Bermudian and American, her Thanksgivings didn’t always look like the traditional kind.
“The ideal day of watching the Macy’s Parade, football, and cooking with family all day, are special memories from my childhood,” she said. “In my adult years, I was working most Thanksgivings, so it was more like going out for a Thanksgiving evening meal at a favourite restaurant or someone’s home.”
This year she planned to pick up an entire meal from Miles Market Bermuda, and celebrate with her family.
“Among the things for which I am truly thankful, first and foremost is my faith in God,” she said. “I have been immeasurably blessed in my life, through times of joy and through times of pain.
“I am also grateful for my family, my health, and my friends. Scars has been a blessing beyond measure, and I am so thankful that people in Bermuda now have a voice through Scars to express their pain and history with sexual abuse. Healing has begun in Bermuda.”
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