Last night I attended a wedding rehearsal dinner for my nephew and his soon-to-be-wife. I watched my sister, her husband, their twelve children along with dozens of their friends enjoying companionship, celebrating the wedding of a loved one and friend.
I watched my nephews and nieces as they interacted with people and remembered when each of them were born. I thought of times we all shared – vacations, summer camps, and most of all, Christmases.
I watched my sister and brother-in-law as they took in the occasion, lost in their own thoughts. “How quickly the time has gone by with our son and the rest of our children. It’s going by too fast”.
I watched the two grandmothers, my mom and my brother-in-law’s mother, as they talked and caught up with their lives. They had their own memories and thoughts. Both of them turn 80 years old within a year of each other. I can’t fathom the depth of their emotions at the time.
When we get home from this trip we will have driven over 2000 miles, but I would do it again. These family times are sacred to me. There may be times when I miss some of them, but I don’t want to. Several years ago I missed my nephew’s wedding because of pneumonia and I still hurt from not being there.
One of the most important lessons my parents taught me was to be there when friends and family are hurting or celebrating. I saw them faithfully practice it, especially my Mom. If at all possible she will be at the birthday party, the graduation, the funeral, or the anniversary celebration.
I know my sister, Melanie, and her husband, Bill, were grateful for the gift of a precious spouse for their son. They had prayed for her for a long time – and now it was coming to pass.
I know Bill and Melanie were grateful for the influence of the parents of their soon-to-be daughter in law. As my nephew gets older I know he will appreciate them even more, too.
I got to see all of these and many more very special things that make these occasions incredibly important. I’m just the uncle, but I’m so glad I was able to be here. It was good for my soul.
Christmas time is a huge event in our family. My Mom (Dad passed away in 2008) has twenty-one grandchildren. For many years all of them were able to come for Christmas. Then, one by one they began to get married and have their own children. They have job responsibilities and the families of their spouse to consider on holidays. Now, it’s unusual to have everyone there at the same time.
A few years ago all of Mom’s grandkids, spouses and great grandchildren were there for Christmas, all piled together in a den. It was loud from spontaneous laughter and excited conversation – and a lot of fun. It was that way all week.
Mom was sitting by me on the couch, observing and not saying anything. She reached over and took my hand and said softly to me, “Rick, when I’m gone will you promise that you will keep this going with all of the kids?”
I knew I couldn’t fully make that promise as she was the reason most of them came home, to see their Nana. I knew my kids, Melanie’s kids, and Hoss’s kids would soon have their own traditions and I had to respect that.
But I think I saw the gist of her question. She was saying, don’t let this die when I’m gone. Keep having special times like this. This brings great joy to my heart.
And from that perspective I assured her that I wouldn’t let family events die.
I’m glad we made the trip. We’ll do it again if we able. Even if it’s 2000 miles.