Thanksgiving – a weighty word

By Robin Harris Waldrip

Editor’s Note: Smitty and Louise Harris’s daughter Robin wrote this epilogue to Tap Code. (See here) Enjoy their 2018 Thanksgiving with Smitty and his four-generation family of 22.

November 2019 –I place the final crystal compote on the table ever so gently, knowing I’m holding a fragile, dearly loved piece of history – our history. I dim the lights, as instructed, and light the candles.

A cacophony of sound comes from the kitchen; but in this moment, every distraction falls away as I peruse the scene. The flicker of candlelight, the silvery gray drapes, and the sparkle of the tablescape engulf me in a sacred vision, carried back to a little table for four, laid out with the same care and attention to detail. I sense the presence of the Maestro, the Master Conductor, suspended over our stories, arranging the most beautiful symphony out of chaos.

Jarred back to the present by the sound of our family entering the dining room, every person talking at once, a melody – indistinguishable and barely audible – rings in my ears. We each take a hand, heads bowed, a prayer offered up. “In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

A dozen conversations ensue, laughter, “pass the gravy,” a fork falls on the Aubusson rug. My granddaughter, Mary Lyle crawls under to retrieve it and can’t resist the opportunity to tickle a foot. A startled shriek, squeals of delight. The melody of our family. Our family.

Clink, clink, clink. Dad’s spoon touches his crystal goblet. Our rowdy group embraces silence. I pull Mary Lyle into my lap. All eyes on Dad, and he begins. We anticipate his usual toast.

“I want to thank Louise – your ‘Khaki,’ my ‘Jane’ – for this beautiful meal. As always, sweetheart, you outdid yourself.”

Our eyes drift from one end of the table to the other –and they rest on Khaki. Snow-white hair framing her lovely face, her sea-green eyes shimmering as a tear threatens to escape, an adoring smile, a quivering lip.

She stares lovingly at him. Dad continues, “As I look around this table, I can’t believe I’m here. For eight long years I prayed to God, begging Him for relief – I asked for my chains to be loosened so the oozing sores on my wrists would heal – with no reply. I begged to be rescued so I could see Louise and my two girls and meet our new baby – no reply. I cried out in anguish as my stomach wrenched with hunger pains. I shook in fear as the key clanked open the door of my cell – knowing another ‘fact finding’ torture session was coming. My requests, my cries, though not answered tangibly, did seem to bring a measure of peace – and I dare say, hope.

“Yet, in my wildest imagination, in my sweetest dreams, I could not have fathomed the blessings waiting for me, the restoration that would come. God did exceedingly more than I could ever have hoped for or dreamed. As I look around the table at each of you, I stand in awe. Not only are my chains loosened; they are gone! Not only was I rescued; I was restored. Not only did I see my wife and girls; I met my son! And my grandsons and granddaughters, my great grandchildren, and your wonderful spouses. Not only did God deliver a meal; he set a table before me in the presence of my enemies in North Vietnam with a bug or a bowl of greasy rice – and now … all of this.”

No dry eyes – not even those teenage boys and the grown men can hold back their tears. I breathe in deeply, wanting to savor, to treasure this moment.

Thanksgiving – never has a word carried more weight, had more meaning.   

Taken from Tap Code by Col. Carlyle “Smitty” Harris (ret.) and Sara W. Berry. Copyright © 2019 by Col. Carlyle “Smitty” Harris (ret.) and Sara W. Berry. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.