One Thanksgiving, I helped with the cooking by shoving potato peels and flour down the garbage disposal all at once. It exploded all over the kitchen, the people, the food. I was old enough to know better, and that minor disaster became part of our family’s holiday lore. Another Thanksgiving I spent in the hospital after surgery; I wanted nothing except my parents at my bedside (they were).

One Christmas Day almost 20 years ago, my husband and I got the call that his aunt had died in one hospital, hours away, while my mother was dying in another hospital in my hometown. We had been married only three months, in a small ceremony after our wedding plans were changed drastically by my mother’s illness and the events of 9/11. Mom died the day after Christmas, and we attended two wrenching family funerals by the New Year.

I promise that you do not want to spend a holiday in the hospital as a patient, or perhaps worse, watching a loved one suffering.

Let this holiday season be That Terrible Year, but only terrible because of all the frustrations and inconveniences and loneliness, and not because you lost so many people. Make your traditional recipes and drop off food at the homes of family (of all kinds), friends, neighbors and any health care workers you know. Chat with them through the door, or from the front yard, or by phone or video. Talk about that time that college kid in your family ruined the disposal and you had to clean up the mess and find a plumber who would come out on Thanksgiving and there wasn’t one so you all figured out what to do together. You can use my story if you need it. My holiday gift to you.

Gretchen Case, Salt Lake City