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“Before we eat I wanna tell ya’ll something.”

Forks full of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing were halfway to people’s mouths. Everyone set them down, not wanting to disrespect their elder.

“I can’t think of the right words to describe how blessed I am to have each and every one of you in this family. God must’ve smiled down on your Gramma and me when he blessed us with all of ya’ll. I guess I just wanted to thank ya’ll for being the amazing people you are and tell ya how much I love you.”

Pops sat back down, tears dangerously close from spilling over his lids while the adults wiped at their checks. My cousins and I were anxious to eat, not truly appreciating the words or the emotion of the moment.

“We’ll, don’t just look at me, dig in!”

And with that, Thanksgiving was back on track. Forks and knives worked and scratched against the stark white china. Dishes passed from hand to hand for seconds and then for thirds. My cousin spilled his drink, and my aunt scolded him. The women helped Gramma with the dishes and leftovers while we kids explored the small patch of woods behind the house. My sister had just gotten a camera and was running around snapping photos of everyone, and that’s when this picture was taken.

I wish the sadness on Pops’ face was as clear to us that day as it is looking at this picture. Maybe we could have stopped him, or maybe the phone call early the next morning wouldn’t have been so shocking. The shrill, nonstop rings of the telephone woke me up.

“Hello?” I said groggily, my voice not betraying who had picked up.

Aunt Nicole was on the other end, and she had just talked to Aunt Jackie, who had just talked to Gramma. The family phone tree was on fire, disrupting the silence of the night.

“Pops is gone. He took his life.”

Story by Madison M. Haggerty

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