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Thanksgiving Weekend Highs and Lows

Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that he’s given you. - John Piper Embrace the Life God has Given You

I'm struggling with embracing my new life. I've been on a lot of emotional roller coasters this year. This past Thanksgiving weekend was not an easy time to navigate, but thankfully I made it through without crashing. As expected, lots of ups and downs (highs and lows).

Thanksgiving High - Hosting for Family

I was humbled by the opportunity to host our Family Thanksgiving lunch in our cozy two bedroom home for 18 adults and 4 kids:

Many of the attendees have could have spent the day at other Thanksgiving events, but chose to spend it here. Even without having stuffing (my favorite Thankgiving dish), everything turned out to be a success! Over the past few weeks, I've been preoccupied with thoughts about the turkey. Every year, Teri took great pride in her turkey preparation, using a dry brine method that always resulted in a delicious meal. While I admired this, I also viewed it as a lot of work. I was torn about whether to take on the task myself, as I enjoy a good challenge. I tried to justify the endeavor that it would make Teri proud, but remembered in my last post that Teri probably would also be proud if I "let it go." So I ultimately decided against it, realizing the effort and stress it would involve. Additionally, a family member mentioned it could be a safety risk if not cooked properly (not sure I agreed since I own a meat thermometer).

In the end, I'm really grateful to Edwin for bringing an exceptional turkey to our gathering, which is not a typical dish you'd expect at a potluck. I didn't even have to ask, he just did it. I love it when people just take action. Thank you brother!

People (well my sister) still asked me, "What did you make??" Thankfully nothing. I focused on what I specialize Thankgiving/Friendgiving potlucks, bringing drinks. And I sort of failed as we ran out of apple cider towards the end.

If Teri were here, she would have said the same thing to me in 2023 like she said in 2022:

"Your Egg Rolls are the Best" - John Hoang (Teri's brother)

See... she's not always the nicest person even though everyone thinks she is. Or maybe my jokes can be annoying from time to time.

Being a host also means I was really busy running around trying to be a good host instead of just chilling out. There were a lot of iterations on arranging furniture in a small two bedroom townhome. At the end of the day I was quite exhusted and relieved that the day was over.

Thanksgiving Low - Couldn't be in Atlanta

Hosting Thanksgiving in Irvine means that I could not be in Atlanta where we usually celebrate Thanksgiving. I felt a lot of sadness when I saw some photos from the Thanksgiving celebration from Teri's family they had at John's house, without Terwin. I was reminded of our previous Thanksgiving meals we celebrated over the years. Here are some photos from 2017 - 2019:

I really wish I could have been in Atlanta and California this year. Or perhaps in three places, as spending Thanksgiving in heaven with Teri would have been my first choice.

Thanksgiving High - Complements about the house

All the Christmas themed decorations are officially up. Here's a photo of most of my family outside the house as they were about to leave:

Teri really loved these blow up decorations. They're a lot of fun except when it's really windy. They help with a warm welcome to our neighborhood as our corner house is the first one you see when you drive in.

I'm humbled by all the compliments I recieved all weekend about how well the inside of the house was decorated:

Actually, most of my family and friends seemed quite surprised. Hopefully its obvious to everyone that I can't really take any of the credit since I didn't buy anything this year, all this stuff is a result of Teri buying and returning a lot of stuff. She spent a lot of time figuring all this out. Thank you again Teri for making our house feel like a home.

Thanksgiving Low - Fatal Car Accident in Woodbridge Lake

On Friday morning, I awoke to some devastating news that occurred at the lake a few minute walk from my house: Camilla Mendoza (30), a resident from Long Beach, was found dead in her car at ~10PM on Thanksgiving day, submerged in Irvine Lake. Later, I walked by the lake where it happened, a place now marked by this tragedy:

I'm still in shock. My prayers are with their family during this difficult time.

Before Teri's passing, news like this would have struck me as simply sad, and I would have moved on quickly. But this time, as I passed by, I saw the family of Camilla gathered on the rocks, mostly in silence. It was so heartbreaking to see.

Thankfully I had the opportunity to spend about an hour talking with Camilla's family. They shared stories about her life, her character, and her volunteer work, giving me a deeper understanding of who she was. She was 30 years old. During this time, other curious onlookers stopped by, curious about the incident. Their questions, focused more on the logistics of the tragedy, stirred feelings of frustration in me:

Do you know how fast she was driving? Was she drunk? Why didn’t the police come faster? What will happen to her dog?

These questions reminded me of the ones people asked me when Teri passed away. I understand that people are naturally curious and mean well. I'm grateful for how graciously the family responded to everyone, despite their own profound grief.

My takeaway from all of this besides my usual reminder that "life is short, make the most of it" is that I'm really blessed to be alive. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving Low - Being alone & cleaning up the house

Reflecting on hosting and how much work it was reminded of a pattern I've shared before: after any special gathering, guests eventually return to their homes, and it's just Mayo and me left. This inevitable outcome that follows often preoccupies my thoughts during these events, making me feel sadness and making it hard to stay present in the moment.

Most of my Saturday was spent by myself, tidying the house, enjoying the Thanksgiving leftovers, walking Mayo, catching up a bit with work, and of course, looking through old photos and videos. I also played around with rearranging furniture, trying out configurations that Teri had previously disapproved of. Turns out, she had a point – I ended up putting everything back as it was, which was a bit frustrating.

Speaking of Mayo, he's been quite the character lately. He used to sleep under my bed, occasionally joining me on it by the time I wake up. When I switched to sleeping in the guest room, he began to consistently sleep on the guest bed, next to me. Now, back in my room, he's taken to sleeping beside me regularly. It's a curious change. I can't explain it.

This Thanksgiving, along with the two Friendsgivings I attended, brought back memories of April. Back then, I was immersed in planning the celebration of life service and traveling to Atlanta for the funeral service at her mom's church. Keeping busy is a coping strategy for me, but it's one that tends to have a delayed emotional impact. I also realized that attending Friendsgivings without Teri was much harder than hosting on my own.

Thanksgiving High - Sunday Service & Activities

The end of the weekend was capped off with an opportunity to serve at church (lyrics) and hear an encouraing message to conclude our series on the book of Daniel and then attend Friendsgiving with several colleagues from my old job that I haven't seen in almost a year:

During worship, singing Hymn of Heaven was the most emotional part of the day. I felt hopeful. The lyrics on the screen was an encouraging reminder that There will be a day when death will be no more.


Thanks for reading this far, it's time to sleep. My takeaway comes from reflecting on the deovtion by John Piper, urging us to deeply feel our losses while embracing the life we have really sums up how I'm really feeeling about everything, right now. In the midst of the rollercoaster of emotions, there's a profound truth in finding the strength to acknowledge our pain, wash our faces, and step forward into the life that unfolds before us. This Thanksgiving has been a testament to that journey of having gratitude, remembering Teri, and the ongoing process of embracing the new normal. Each experience, from the highs of celebration to the lows of solitude and grief, has shaped me for the better, teaching me to hold onto memories while moving forward with resilience and hope.

Have a great rest of the week!


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So thankful to be reminded that feeling grief and moving on are not mutually exclusive; in fact, one is vital to the other. An amputee never forgets the limb they lost, but they still want to learn how to function without it. It takes time and patience and lots of practice, but it can be done. Glad that applies to relational losses as well.


Tiffany Wong
Tiffany Wong
Nov 30, 2023

I was just wondering how you were doing the other day and I'm glad that you wrote an update. :). Sounds like it was a very full thanksgiving for you. The holidays are especially difficult. I think it's also good that you recognized that Teri would be proud of you if you "let it go". Teri sounds like she put a LOT of time and effort into what she did whether it be decorations or turkey preparation and it's OK if you leave that mantle to someone else. To do turkey well is not easy and it does take a lot of prepwork. I tried two years and decided it wasn't worth it for me. Maybe one day y…


Jenny Scott
Jenny Scott
Nov 30, 2023

Thank you for sharing your heart, Erwin. We are so proud of you not giving up in life through your difficult time. We love you and need you. We are so proud of the godly man you keep growing to be day after day in The Lord’s hands and under His daily guidance. Teri would be so proud of you. Be encouraged! You are totally balancing this time so victoriously by being honest in your grieving, but also moving forward with your sweet memories ever so close in your heart. Thank you for letting us go on this journey with you.


Gretchen Lai
Gretchen Lai
Nov 29, 2023

Omg! I had no idea about the lake accident. I’m glad you could be with Camilla’s family, and I’m sure they so appreciated being able to talk to someone about how much they loved her. It is interesting how grief can change us positively as well- how you were able to just be with Camilla’s family and minister to them in that moment. The house looks great btw! I’m glad you’re finding ways to still honor Teri and also know that the turkey was her thing (but one of these days, I still think you should try!) I love how Mayo is so intuitive and is sleeping beside you now. Dogs have a sixth sense about things sometimes:) take care,…

Erwin Edillon
Erwin Edillon
Nov 29, 2023
Replying to

Yes I’ll definitely try the turkey one day, hopefully next year.

Ham and stuffing sounds great! all our hangouts at your house has been so helpful and fun.

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