"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Family Reunion Thoughts

Bittersweet. For me it’s the emotion that always seems to accompany big family gatherings. When I was younger it was mostly because they would end. During the dinners, particularly our annual family reunions, I would see cousins that I did not get to see on a regular basis. We or they would arrive a day or two before the reunion and we would run and play; joke and laugh; eat and compete. But as the reunion dinner drew to an end, people would scatter somewhat quickly. The next morning, or sometimes even that evening, people would leave and a few short days of celebration would come to a close.

The time together was short but I was always aware, particularly as people began to pack up and go, of how fleeting the time was. I was glad for the time we had spent together but, well Shakespeare was right, “parting is such sweet sorrow.”

There is still an element of that, decades later. Of course, there isn’t so much play involved (and even less running) but the jokes and laughter, eating and competing still remain. The play and competing are generally the realm of cards these days. Gone are the baseballs, bats and gloves; the volleyball; the horseshoes have given way to the occasional corn toss game. But cards, which have always accompanied my family gatherings, remain. Hearts has been the go to game for years, though some prefer euchre (it’s an Indiana thing that we’ve worked to export, not successfully, to Tennessee). This year though we returned to the family classic, Pitch.

So as the carefree days of being a youth and simply enjoying the reunion have passed into my brothers, sister, and I being the main ones putting on the reunion on the years it is held in Indiana, some of the old bittersweetness might have been consumed by simply being tired as the reunion came to a close.

But now, in these days, there are additional reasons to be bittersweet. Family reunions are an increasing reminder of those no longer with us to attend these gatherings. Mom, Dad, and my nephew Jason are the closest family members we’ve lost. It has been so long since we lost Grandma and Grandpa, who started this annual reunion, but also we’ve lost Uncle Albert, Uncle Dosey, Aunt Emmer, Uncle Paul, and Uncle Robert. Only five of mom’s siblings now remain, and their ages span from the nineties to the sixties. Four of the five still live in Tennessee and only two, Uncle G and Uncle Bill, were able to make the trip to Indiana this year.

So we have a reunion; a celebration of family with those able to attend and a remembrance of those who cannot. One day, a day that draws closer all the time (though I make no claim to knowing how near or far that day may be), I believe God will have a family reunion. In the Bible it is called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Our family reunions are but a foretaste of that greater reunion. Gone will be the bittersweetness of a celebration that comes to an end for we will not part from one another. The longing I experience every year as we gather in the shadow of that great reunion will find it’s fulfillment in the reality of that great reunion.

“In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus is telling us that the calling of God is an invitation to a celebration. And the prospect of that celebration is the basis of the great hope the gospel offers us all. Like the invited guest of the parable, one going to the field and another to his business, we are so preoccupied with our own affairs that we do not have the time or the inclination to remember. But we are going to a celebration.

“The Bible ends with a feast.”
Until that time, I will remember in joy the good times we have all shared; I will mourn the loss of those with whom I shall never again share those times in this life; and I will cling to the hope that one day we will share good times again in the light of God’s presence.

(Quote is from "We Are Going to a Celebration" in Bob Benson's See You at the House)


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