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Face it

At two different celebrations this past week, I have been rolling through my mind some wonderful observations. Though people change, the basic substance of who they are nost often remains. It is a part of self that is in the design of a person- whether in the dna and from influence of environment, it is there. It is present even when we try to run from it and live in opposition to it. It is the being in human being. It is the self that you love, that you struggle with, that you celebrate and hide from. It is there in the mirror looking back from behind those windows. It is in the laughter and tears. It is in the healing and in the decline. It knows its own weaknesses better than one ever admits, better than allowed to be put in words. It is the insurmountable strength that each person is certain only they know the full depth. It is in the strength others do see and we glaze over. It is in the days since birth and in the centuries of ancestry. That is what those faces proclaim that we look into.
Those faces carry the shared pasts known to us. They share hints of the shared traits of those we love now gone. Sometimes they seem to be the exact copy of another. This is something that makes knowing people for a life time so special. There are disagreements in families. There are opposing views. There can be petty nonsense pass between them. But in the end our family is family (I am lucky as it is so on both sides of the families who welcomed me into life.). They have each other’s back. It is what we do. We love without regard to wisdom of decisions, or failures. Because in the end there is an integrity carried in the souls of those who came before us all in their everyday struggles and in the major events that shaped their lives and in turn our lives.
From the time I was a child, it has always been hard to leave these gatherings. I love being with these people. I cannot hear enough stories from both young and old. And now the sadness is the knowledge that at the next gathering someone who is with us this year will not be there next year. It has always been that way, always will be.
I remember the year after Daddy died. I was 12 years old. He died in November on a Monday in late November, the 20th, my brother’s birthday. I remember so many of the family attending the funeral service and the meal afterward which was where we had always had the family reunion in those days. It was somewhat surreal to me. I couldn’t understand why people would want to eat. My grief had not allowed me to readily absorb the honor and celebrate his life when SO entrenched in grief over his death. Still there was the comfort of the family all around us. It broke my heart to think of his brothers and sisters, his father who were there to mourn his loss. At the time I hadn’t considered my mother to be a strong person. In youth we sometimes miss the ways in which our mothers or fathers draw on a strength of unimaginable force. I knew she was a faithful woman. But I wasn’t certain how she would get through this. To complicate things, Mom did not drive a car. My brother was in his first year at college. My sister would be at best a novice. Stepping ahead to that next summer the reunion seemed different. I remember the lump in my throat feeling so huge that it might choke me before I gained composure. Everyone was upbeat. A few aunts had that look in their eyes that were empathetic and apologetic at the same time. Some of my great aunts spoke in wavering voices and dropped a tear as they gave their dear hugs. My uncles were sweet and upbeat. I could get lost in watching conversations but inside I wanted to scream. Were we seriously going to go about the reunion without him there? How was this possible, to act as though everything was alright? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. But it was alright. We did all survive. Life did go on…as it is beckoned to do. One day it will be me missing there. I wonder whether my kids will live close enough to care to go to the reunion. For that matter I wonder will the next generation be willing to carry on the tradition of the family reunion. I hope so. I pray so. I hope they find the laughter, the stories, the lumps in the throat at hearing words of stories from times gone by, at shared memories, at dreams held by us- those who had gone before. I hope they’ll look at old pictures recognizing a gleam in the eyes of someone from their ancestry. I pray they know the blessing of the union of people whose blood flows from generations before bringing these people together- all with common blood. I must believe they will. It is in faith that hope abides. May we be worthy of remembrance. May those to come in our footsteps find answers and find peace from the love shared at these events, May this world be more kind than it has been treated.

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