Thanksgiving is here, and it’s already feeling hard since my past two Thanksgivings have included Emily. Thanks to a COVID exposure at work, Emily had to stay home for Thanksgiving in 2020. Since I was also home by myself, we decided to eat lunch together over Zoom that day. Then last year, Emily brought me and the kids home to her family’s Thanksgiving in Knoxville, and we had an amazing time.
To me, Thanksgiving has always been a holiday about family. In fact, it’s one of my favorite holidays because of the way it brings people together. It just makes me happy. And I know Emily felt the same way about this holiday, because Emily’s family meant everything to her.
Emily’s Family Was Her World
Before we even started dating, I knew a ton about Emily’s family. Honestly, I think anyone who talked to her for more than a few minutes did. However, I loved the fact that Emily’s family meant so much to her because it allowed me to get to know each of them before I even got to meet them.
She told me about her two brothers, one older and one younger. She explained that, although she had a different relationship with each of them, they’d both do anything for her and she’d do anything for them. According to Emily, her older brother can be quiet, but he’d give anyone the shirt off his back if it would help them. Meanwhile, she said her younger brother was more likely to cut up and make you laugh. She knew which one to call if she had car trouble, and which one to call if she needed help with her computer. Either way, they’d always be there to help.
Emily also showed me dozens of pictures of her nieces. Her face would light up as she’d talk about them, and she would often see random items in stores and say, “My niece would love this!” She always listed them as her reasons to keep going, and she relished every moment she got to spend with them.
And, of course, I heard a lot about her parents too. She’d often compare food in restaurants to her dad’s version of the dish (dad’s was always better). She would say, “I’m a daddy’s girl,” yet she always wanted her mom there anytime she needed a medical procedure done, even if it was routine. She’d often say that she just wanted to be a person her parents would be proud of, and I could tell from the first time I met them that they absolutely were proud of the woman she’d become.
Emily loved each and every family member dearly, and she had lots to say about each of them. Her family was her world.
“What If They Don’t Like Me?”
I met Emily’s parents once before we started dating. She was moving into a new apartment, and I had a whole carload of items I’d helped her move out of the old apartment a few weeks prior. We talked a bit as we all hauled the items from my vehicle up three flights of stairs, but honestly I don’t remember much else from that first encounter aside from the fact that Emily gave me a huge hug as I got ready to leave… but that’s a whole other story.
Fast forward a year and a half, and I was on my way to Knoxville with Emily for July 4th weekend 2021. We were going to spend the weekend at her parents’ house, and although we’d been dating since late April, she still hadn’t told them because she wanted to tell them in-person while we were there.
I kept saying the anxious thoughts that popped into my head the entire three-hour car ride there. I worried they wouldn’t like me, or they’d be mad when they found out we were more than friends. I knew her family meant everything to her, and I assumed not getting their approval would be the end of our relationship.
Of course, Emily had a reassuring comment for every single one of my fears. Eventually, Emily just looked at me and said, “Babe, my family loves me and just wants me to be happy. I’m so happy with you and you are so good to me, so that’s all that matters.”
As it turned out, Emily was right… even if she did chicken out of telling her parents about our relationship until several months after the fact.
I Guess I’m Family Now
Since that first visit to Knoxville, I’ve spent a lot of time with Emily’s family. It’s easy to see why Emily was so fond of her family, because they’re all incredible people. And, of course, we all share a common bond — we all loved Emily dearly.
As I lurked the depths of Reddit in the week after Emily’s death, I worried once again about what my relationship with these incredible people would like in the aftermath of her death. However, as Emily’s younger brother and her parents have said multiple times over the past month, it looks like I’m part of the family now.
Emily had become an essential part of my family and really was my home. But because of Emily, I now have an entire brood of people I can call family. They’ve been a great source of comfort through what have very much been the darkest days of my life, and I will always be thankful for that.