by Rev. John H. Farmer
It seems as if just yesterday our Pittman lads were running around in Halloween masks and carving pumpkins. Oh well, maybe that means we’ve been so busy being thankful that we let the time slip away, right? Sure.
News personalities and historians are preening their feathers at word processors or before TV cameras, or at radio mikes to let us know just where the first Thanksgiving service was celebrated. Regional events have taken on national proportions as Jamestown looks toward Plymouth Bay. The Pilgrims glare back. So, who really was first?
Retirement robbed of us IBC friends Media General president Graham (1963-2009) and Marilyn Woodlief. They lived across the Corrotoman River at Towles Point and had purchased a lot in Weems when part of Louise and Harwood Cochrane’s farm went on the market. We were so delighted that they were making their church home with us in Irvington. Well, alas and alack, not to be…
Graham told us that a year before Pilgrims ever stepped foot upon New England soil, English settlers led by Capt. John Woodlief landed at what is now Berkeley Plantation, 20-plus miles downriver of Richmond. Do remember that Robert “King” Carter owned all the land from Northumberland County over to the James. Former Richmond and Northern Necker Woodlief is a direct descendant of John Woodlief. Every year we plan to participate in the Berkeley festivities and thus far have failed to do so.
The late Suzanne Gardner Fleet relayed a story to me that seems to nip the argument in the bud. Many years ago when she was a young educator, in a regional conversation about Thanksgiving, this and that fact was bantered about by the Caucasians present, to no resolve. They turned to a native lass (from one of the reservations near West Point) who, when queried about what her ancestors were doing on that first Thanksgiving, answered, “Helping your white ancestors tie up their shore boats.” Hear the message. They were here first.
My bride and our expanding thankful family are homebound this year. There’s a bit of celebrating at Virginia Commonwealth Bank (former Bank of Lancaster) as they prepare for Hazel’s retirement after 48 years. Then, our daughter Jennifer Pittman-Dixon graduates with her master’s in nursing down in Mobile, Ala.
Christmas activities at the Irvington Baptist Church are in preparation. Santa’s local role is ever expanding and many dates for children beckon from here to Washington, DC, and back.
This I do know, wherever the white settlers from Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Massachusetts east and west in Tennessee roamed, they failed to measure the magnitude of the harsh new land’s winters. At night, the Native Americans would sneak into their camps, their barns and lay gifts of dried deer, bear and boar meat, and leave piles of dried pumpkin. It was the only thing that allowed those stalwart pioneers to survive those first few winters.
How quickly gratitude turned to division. Seasons later, the white settlers and native Americans came to bitter ends. We white tribes colonized America and herded the earlier native tribes into reservations, then claimed ourselves conquerors of America.
We can look to our Bibles for many a passage of thanksgiving. Just around the corner from the front cover God paused to say to himself and his army of angels, that he was so pleased with all that he had accomplished. He established the idea of Thanksgiving. The Bible tells me so…
Life is so broad that we have to collect our thoughts around a theme, season, or date. I am getting too staid for such. My plate has to have a recognized menu, a specific banquet for me upon which to concentrate. I need focus.
This Thanksgiving holiday we are going to pray for the doctors, nurses, staff, volunteers and support employees of my Rappahannock General Hospital (Bon Secours). RGH has been a blessing to me for 31 years. I am thankful that in yesteryears it was such a regular drill that I’d go in, grab the crash cart, clasp my hand around the EKG machine and drag them to the first available bed and call for a nurse… just kidding! But my, it did seem that way.
That marvelous gang that makes up the emergency room is one very special team. I am so grateful for them! I have received service that only royalty should expect. Being one of their boomerang patients does make me ever so much more mindful of what their daily life is like. There is no counting the long hours away from their loved ones to attend the likes of me. I am not alone. Ours is a small hospital and understaffed. They need our love and support and certainly our appreciation.
How about you, your family? Isn’t there some very notable reason for why you are grateful this Thanksgiving for our hospital? If there is, how best might we collectively express our gratitude? Make it personal.
The extended Farmer, Pittman and Cothran families will be gathered at the table in the Lancaster Tavern, circa 1790, for turkey-day. Our prayers will be for those who keep our wonderful community medical service going. “Come ye thankful people, come…” join the extended Farmer family in praying for and counting our blessings for the Bon Secours Rappahannock General Hospital and staff exemplar.