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 brothers and sisters still alive along with their families gather to reconnect with several generations coming together for this one afternoon. Every year the group is a little different, 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 in the many 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. As I watch my husband’s family at reunions, the purposes behind reunions themselves becomes clear: Rekindle relationships, preserve heritage, and develop 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 cease to exist if not for this yearly reunion, so reconnecting and rekindling relationship is a major reason many have 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 and his siblings. 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 family remembers of their childhood. The trivia game provides a unique way for the heritage of each individual present to be preserved.
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 (i.e., our beginnings as a couple). As we drove home from one reunion, for example, we showed them where we went to school and the town where we grew up. Now we can start sharing that heritage with our grandkids.
Intergenerational relationships exist with younger and older connecting through conversations and games. This unique setting creates an atmosphere for age to at least somewhat be ignored while generations connect and play together for one afternoon.
The Final Reunion
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
This reunion that Paul talks is also meant to encourage those who will get to attend. It will be an event when all Christians throughout time are united together. Even more significant is that they will also be united with Christ, and this reunion will have no ending. Relationships will be permanently rekindled. The heritage we have as sons and daughters of the God will exist as a reality we live out as we each receive our inheritance. Age will cease to matter and perhaps to even exist.
When I realize the picture of eternity that family reunions provide, a great anticipation for the ultimate family reunion comes alive in me.