Pears for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Shopping List:

  • Turkey
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Pears

Pears? Not on my list this year, but they might be on Jeannie Gaffigan’s, as she gathers round the table with husband Jim, their 5 children, and the family and funny people who helped her heal.

In 2017, Jeannie’s doctors discovered a pear-shaped tumor in her brain. Her memoir of the diagnosis and all that followed is When Life Gives You Pears. (See where she’s going with this?)

Her delightful, hilarious, intimate recounting of this time of total life reset is awe-inspiring:

Aww, I can’t believe all she went through!

Aww, the miracles in abundance that took place!

Aww, Jim’s love and commitment to Jeannie and their children!

Aww, how sad, and resilient, the kids were to brave so many months without their momma, and when she does return, get to know a new mom, because she’s not the same – physically changed, and with a new outlook on what it means to be mom.

Moms of all ages and configurations can take heart in Jeannie’s wisdom:

  • Our children need our attention and presence above all else
  • The village helps us raise them
  • Be honest, loving, and appreciative of your significant other
  • Listen to your body and don’t push through pain and other physical warning signs while tending to your family

We know, or at least have heard, all these things. And on good days, we live like we believe them.

Yet Jeannie’s Big Aww’s are the heart of her story, and her generous telling meets the reader at a deeper place:

  • She was grumpy and (sometimes) rude to hospital staff and family, especially when the pain seemed endless and the prognosis too much to handle.
  • Her marriage struggled through a pre-tumor rough patch and was tested again in life-and-death circumstances, and recovery’s messy, exhausting days.
  • Healing is lonely work. Many who loved her rallied to help, and holy coincidences (aka miracles) put the right people in place to treat and tend to her. But she was alone in her body, somehow finding the will to take the next step and continue through many setbacks.
  • Prayer makes all the difference.
  • She doesn’t take for granted shampooing her hair, or swallowing water.
  • She missed who she had been – the mom-producer-show runner-director who knew and kept watch over her family’s needs and comforts. She released these roles to others during recovery and deeply grieved the loss.
  • In that release, she opened her heart and mind to a new Jeannie. Physically changed, yes, and transformed deep in her soul. She’s folding it into the details of her life. There are good – and not-so-good – days.
  • She’s grateful for the pear. She writes:

 “It’s a strange concept to express gratitude for something that really messed everything up for a while, but had it not been for this catastrophe, I never would have had the opportunity to see what my marriage could survive. I wouldn’t have experienced the same kind of painful separation from my children, which was necessary for me to realize exactly how I could love them without being a drill sergeant.”

Jeannie Gaffigan, When Life Gives You Pears

I wonder what this week, preparing for and celebrating Thanksgiving, looks like in the Gaffigan home?  Jeannie and Jim share their lives through Jim’s comedy, in shows they produce, on social media, in community service, and through this tender and hilarious book. I’ll check their Instagram @jeanniegaffigan and @jimgaffigan for a shopping list. Pears just might be on it.

I’m so grateful for Jeannie’s book. Her generous spirit, honest self-assessment, laugh-till-there’s-tears-in your-eyes humor, unapologetic faith, and passionate love of her family remind me I can make it, and emerge wiser, when life gives me pears.

Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan tell their story on CBS Sunday Morning


  1. I’m in on reading this book. Beautiful blog post, I am grateful for you! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  2. I saw this segment on Sunday Morning as well. Loved it and want to read the book too. Thank you for this reminder on your fantastic blog.

  3. Dear Maria..what a great post..not just for Thanksgiving but for always. Those of us who have suffered in various ways and been separated from our children know of what she speaks. It does sound weird to be grateful for the most excruciating experiences of our lives, but I suppose that is why the universe presents these journeys to us. I’ll only speak for myself, but it took a force as great as a lightening strike in my heart to open me up to the love, gratitude and presence that now permeates my life. I wouldn’t be the same without my experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thanks for sharing this inspirational woman, her story and her guidance.

    1. Thanks, Tracey! We wonder why it takes such extreme circumstances to help us appreciate our lives. I think we’re so distracted and busy trying to do our best. Thanks for what you shared about your own experience.

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