Perched on my end table by my recliner is a small ceramic statue of a winged infant angel. It was a touching gift from a couple I know from church. Don and I are mutual Chicago Cubs fans and I have a coaster with the Cubs championship insignia on it that he brought me some time back. We often share Cub high signs when we run into each other at church. He and Sandie bring sunshine into my life. Folks, it is friends like they are that help people get through tough times.

I am writing you people just two days before Thanksgiving. As you know, my son’s family and I and the rest of our clan are struggling for recovery from the death of one who was loved by all, whether he was son, brother, grandson, nephew, friend or buddy. But we are all trying to keep as up-beat as possible. That is the way our guy would want it.

I have been invited to join that family for the Thanksgiving dinner, and I really want to go. The only problem I have is the uncertainty of my own emotions. I don’t want to be downhearted, fighting off tears, adding to their grief. I have this problem of trying not to go to the dining room here at my assisted-living quarters with red eyes and downcast demeanor. Tearful attacks still strike and often the more I fight this emotional downer, the harder it is to contain.

Today I went on the van-riding trip we are offered a couple times a week. I love those trips and I am fortunate to get to go on the bus up a lowered ramp in a wheelchair and sit by myself at the very rear of the bus. I soak in the scenery, and any passing action we are bound to encounter. Today we saw three deer grazing among the trees in Freeport’s wonderful Krape Park. You should have heard the chatter in the bus.

Flocks of geese actually appeared to be enjoying what had to be bitter cold water in the park’s rambling little Yellow Creek. People bundled up in coats and mufflers were out walking their dogs along the paths. We looked down from the road above the band shell at the outdoor theater and remembered the band concerts we had been privileged to attend this past summer on a couple of warm evenings.

Cruising around town this morning we saw piles of rather dejected looking jack-o-lanterns at homes where they were clearing out their Halloween and autumn decorations, likely contemplating the replacement of them with the lights and glitter of Old St. Nicholas… some depicting the “real reason for the season.”

Oh, I did have the luxury of my own Halloween treat. My friend Nanette brought me some chocolate goodies. Oh no, Nanette, how did you know my weakness? Thank you. I ate them unabashed with no guilt felt at all.

Turning to Mother Nature, we see her actually putting on her own shows all the time. I have been noting the progress of the moon on nights when the clouds didn’t hide it. It has been gradually going from the slim ark of a half-circle to filling gradually, night by night, to eventually becoming the big round magnificent milky sphere.

For me, the sky is the most fascinating thing of creation, different every hour and every day. We can’t even begin to comprehend the vast space between our earth and the stars. Don’t you just wonder how those astronauts feel out there encircling this globe? Even looking down from a skyscraper window makes my legs go weak. If space exploration had been left to me, America would probably still be inhabited only by natives, Magellan would never have encircled the globe and we’d absolutely never have reached the moon. I’d have been one of those who believed the earth was flat.

We have little discussions at our dining tables. One friend gets lonesome for the consistent sunshine of the Southwest, but I, born and raised in the Midwest, would greatly miss even the cold, cold winters with their heavy snows, icicles, cumbersome coats, scarves, hats, gloves, boots, storm windows, furnaces, et cetera. Just think of the eventual glorious awakening in the spring.

Well, today I talked with a friend who brightened the day by stopping to chat a little and share some witty sayings. Maybe that is where the lesson is. Having been an active man in his day, he can still contribute some humor, precipitate a little laughter, some relaxation from the tensions some of us carry around day by day. It is said that laughter is the best medicine, and I tend to agree.

Here’s hoping you all find much to be thankful for throughout this holiday season. As the old songs advise, “look for the silver lining” and “walk on the sunny side of the street.” You’ll be glad you did, and so will those you meet.

Harriett Gustason is a columnist for The Journal-Standard. She can be reached at 815-235-3855 or hgustason@frontier.com.