So, I went! I scrambled around finishing up laundry, packing my bags, writing down things for Jasmine to remember/do....my school children had no idea mom would be gone when they came home that evening! Chris and I met my dad halfway between OH and IN and I left my mom/wife life behind and entered single/daughter mode as we drove along toward IN and two days away from my family.
Have I mentioned before that I am married to a very wise man? I am. It was amazing to spend time with my sisters and dad and relatives without needing to worry about anybody else! I went off to brunch with cousins and shopping with sisters and standing around talking at the viewing and late night ice cream without needing to think about a.n.y.b.o.d.y. but me. Only you moms can understand how very strange that felt! No tired, cranky little children or bored big children. No feeling guilty about the husband who was tired of meeting strangers and keeping track of children an hour ago. No trying to settle babies in strange beds and allowing enough time to get everyone dressed in the morning.....
My mom and dad both grew up in IN. When their oldest was 3 and their second born only a couple of months old, they moved to a tiny mission church in AR. I grew up far, far away from grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins, and back when I was little, making a trip to IN was a lot bigger thing than it is now. Often, our family would spend a week there in the summer time, not because we were taking a fancy vacation, but so my dad could work while we were there to pay for the trip! So, while I have good memories with cousins and family, I never felt like I knew many of them well and as we grew up and married our connections became even looser.
There's something about getting older that makes you look at those family ties in a different light. Something that makes you want them a little more, appreciate them a little more, value them a little more deeply. Tuesday night after the viewing all of the girl cousins and in-law ladies congregated in the back room at "Honey's", a little ice cream shop with more flavors and toppings than you can imagine. We all drew up chairs and talked and laughed and ate ice cream. We went around the circle and each shared a little about our lives. There was a wide variety of ladies in that circle - nurses, teachers, stay-at-home moms, work-a-day-job moms, home-school moms, curriculum writers and more. We looked different from each other, we grew up in different settings, we liked different things, held to different ideas...we were about as varied as the many ice cream toppings we had just debated over! But as we sat in the circle and talked and laughed and nodded and asked questions, the differences shrank into the background and we shared the common thread of women living normal lives all with a tie to the Mose and Katie Gingerich gene pool.
Wednesday as I sat in the funeral service and stood at the gravesite I felt that strong, family tie again. Not so very long ago it was the grandparents in the front row, laying their spouse to rest. Now, our parents are the front row and we cousins are standing in back with our youngsters. Life is so short! Not so long ago Aunt Fran was a woman like us in that circle Tuesday night. As I sat in the service, with tears streaming down, I was convinced once again that there is a God, and He does make a difference! If Aunt Fran could live with the reality of M.S. for 25 years and leave behind the testimony of acceptance and cheer and strength that she did, there is a God, and she knew Him. Not only that, but life is short - all of us are swiftly moving up to that front line! Am I gonna let God make a difference for me?
It's good to be home, to hug little people and catch up on the news and crawl into my very own bed and return to mom/wife mode. But I'm glad I had the chance to view the family ties in a new light, to feel that deep appreciation and value for what was and, with God's help, to pass it on to the row coming behind!
Ps I discovered I have a crowd of lurking relatives who read my stuff! I thought maybe a picture might jar them out of the shadows :)