Two and a half weeks ago, my family and I spent a day with a congenial group of friends, including some we’ve known for years but hadn’t seen in months, and others we’d never laid eyes on before. It was one of those days you enjoy to the full at the time and relive with the greatest of pleasure afterwards, full of stimulating conversation, references to inside jokes, and remembrances of things past—about as near perfect as a day can be. But for me, as always, there was a tint of melancholy, the pinch of salt that grounds the sweetness, and it concerned the gaps in the ranks: those who should have been there, but weren’t. I feel the same way at Thanksgiving. I think of my dad, who ought to be working his genius in the kitchen and tossing out flippant remarks. The youngest brother, quiet and playful, who didn’t live to his thirties. The eldest brother who isn’t even a memory to me, just a face in a photo. Even the young half-brother and half-sister I’ve never met. And it seems to me that there are people missing from every gathering. There are some who have absented themselves through destructive behavior or harsh words, and others who are altogether innocent but cut off from the group by the selfish actions of others. I am not particularly wise, but the older I get the more I see that security is only an illusion; that the ultimate separation can come at any time, without warning and without mercy; that there are gaps that will never close and hurts that will never heal this side of heaven. And this knowledge informs my actions, making me cherish those who remain, welcome the new additions, and want to heal the breaches that can be healed while there is time.