Read Dr. Peg Sandeen’s heartwarming Thanksgiving message below and consider making your end-of-year gift alongside her today

As a child, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. We would alternate years spent with my mom or dad’s family, but regardless, there was always a home full of cousins, aunts, and uncles. My mom’s family hosted Thanksgiving dinners on the family farm nestled in rural central Iowa, and we would play in the barns and livestock grazing fields before and after dinner at the big farm table.

To this day, what I cherish most about Thanksgiving are the feelings of gratitude for family — seeing everyone gathered around a table, relishing the experience of togetherness. Every year, I look forward to setting the table and remembering the years before.

But this year something is different. My aunt Pam died in August, and now — with the exception of my mom (and me jammed in the corner on a stool, because I hated the kids’ table) — every seat at the grown-ups’ table is empty. 

Those of us who support Death with Dignity usually know grief. I certainly do. I also know the gratitude that eventually warms the space around it, and I know the feelings I have now will change and grow, too. So today, I’m making my annual contribution to Death with Dignity in honor of every one of my family members at the grown-ups’ table, and I ask you to join me in making a donation in honor of those who bring us to this movement.

Thanksgiving is not a holiday celebrated by everyone, and it has a complicated history, especially as we consider indigenous peoples and how they have been co-opted into the Thanksgiving narrative. Thanksgiving is a holiday about gratitude and grief. Families all over the country will experience an empty seat at the table — representing someone who died this year, or long ago.

My family tends to approach this grief through laughter and the celebration of nostalgia and joyful memories. Your family dynamics may be the same, or entirely different. Regardless, grief is a reality during holidays.

Managing grief during the holidays is tricky, and it’s one of the many ways Death with Dignity provides support to our constituents and the general public. We provide programs on bereavement and grieving, end-of-life planning, and supporting people who are pursuing medical aid in dying, along with our flagship political campaigns that lead to changes and passage of Death with Dignity laws. Organizationally, we have helped lead every campaign for Death with Dignity in the country, and I am full of so much gratitude to have personally been a part of each of them since the passage of Oregon’s law. I was still at the kid’s table then!

Whether out of gratitude or nostalgia, please join me today in making a contribution to Death with Dignity. For each of us, we only get one death, and Death with Dignity works every day to ensure we all have options, dignity, and autonomy throughout our lives.

This year, as I sit with my mom at a brand new grown-ups’ table, I remember and honor those who have sat in this seat before me.

In gratitude,

Peg Sandeen
Chief Executive Officer