About 80 strong, my husband’s family gathers the last Sunday in July every year for a reunion. My father-in-law is one of 12 children, and the 11 brothers and sisters still alive along with their families gather to reconnect with 4 generations coming together for this one afternoon.
Every year the group changes, some gone through death and divorce and some simply absent because of other commitments. New arrive through marriage and birth. The group has certainly changed, grown mostly, over the 25 years I’ve been attending.
My husband and boys love these reunions. They love seeing cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. They love playing the games and eating the food. My family history does not include that of reuniting much, yet I am intrigued by this tradition and want to understand its draw.
As I watch my husband’s family at reunions, the purposes behind reunions themselves becomes clear. Those purposes are to keep in touch, rekindle relationships, preserve heritage and create intergenerational relationships.
Most people at my husband’s reunion see each other only once a year and this is their way of keeping in touch. With busy lives, not coming together intentionally every year means losing that connection. Many of these relationships would completely cease to exist if not for this yearly reunion, so reconnecting and rekindling relationship is a major reason for attending.
Preserving heritage at my husband’s reunions comes in the form of a prominently displayed family tree and a trivia game about the growing-up years of my father-in-law’s family. In today’s culture, hearing about the life of 12 children on a farm in Michigan during the depression fascinates all ages. I am amazed at how much the “original” group remembers of their childhood. The trivia game provides a unique way for the heritage of each individual present to be preserved.
Intergenerational relationships exist too with younger and older connecting for conversations, games and some even further connecting outside of the reunion. This unique setting creates an atmosphere for age to at least somewhat be ignored while generations connect and play together for one afternoon.
These reunions have provided a terrific way for my kids to not only connect with their paternal heritage, but they are also able to connect with my husband’s and my heritage (our beginnings as a couple). As we drove home from the reunion, we showed them where we went to school and the town where we grew up, and they were truly interested.
These yearly reunions have created a longing in my kids and myself to continue the tradition of family reunions as my boys grow and start families of their own (not for a while yet though). This greatly encourages me as the years with my kids seem to be fleeting away.
The Final Reunion
In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, Paul talks about a reunion that is meant to encourage those who will get to attend. This will be an event when all Christians throughout time are united together. Even more significant is that they will also be united with Christ. This reunion will have no ending. Relationships will be permanently rekindled. The heritage we have as sons and daughters of the Most High King will exist as a reality we live out as we each receive our inheritance. Age will cease to matter and perhaps to even exist.
As I struggle with the fact that my own family does not reunite regularly, I am able to find joy in a family that still clings to what Geneology.com says only about 45% of families still do every year. My joy increases when my kids catch excitement for experiencing their heritage more fully and for wanting to continue that tradition themselves. Finally, when I realize the picture of eternity that family reunions provide, a great anticipation for the ultimate family reunion comes alive in me.
DISCUSSION: Does your family meet yearly? How does this affect your sense of connection in general? What thoughts do you have of the final reunion in Heaven?