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Family Reunions Aren't Just For Funerals

Updated on August 16, 2012

When our “Big Mama” closed her eyes for the last time, it was a rude awakening for our family. Granted, she was nearing the century mark and we all knew that she wouldn’t be with us forever. But I guess we lived as if she would. She had dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren, and she knew and loved us all in a unique way. She wasn’t perfect, but to her “grands,” she sure seemed to be. On just about any summer day at high noon, you could sit with her on the backyard swing and enjoy a bologna sandwich made with a heavy dose of mayonnaise, and sip sweet cherry Koolaid from a Mason jar. If you were lucky, you might even get a couple of those flower-shaped butter cookies for dessert; the kind they used to serve for snack at Bible School. These are the sorts of memories that never leave you, even if the person who created them is gone.

Simpler Times: Big Mama posing in front of the old truck, with yellow swing at right.
Simpler Times: Big Mama posing in front of the old truck, with yellow swing at right.
Big Mama blowing out the birthday candles.
Big Mama blowing out the birthday candles.

"Cat-Faced" Biscuits

There were always special days that we shared as a family, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthdays. Various family members would come together, bearing food and gifts and we’d enjoy one another’s company. But these were usually separate groups gathering with their immediate family members. It was a time to see how much the baby had grown, to meet a new family spouse, to learn what our college students were studying or to hand down a recipe. My mom would roll out her legendary “cat-faced” biscuits (not sure why she called them that, perhaps she imagined that if made just right, the indentations on top of the biscuits would resemble a feline). We would all eat more than our stomachs could hold and most of the adults would end up catching an afternoon nap wherever they sat. The snoring continued, even with the TV blaring and the children running in and out of house slamming the door. A couple of hours later, we would meet in the kitchen and the cycle would start all over again!

"Back Home" for a Day

On rare occasions we would round up our relatives in “town” and head for the “country.” We’d take Big Mama on the four-hour drive just outside of Abbeville, S.C. to visit her folks. She had 10 siblings and those who were living brought their children and grandchildren, making it a huge gathering. We’d get to know our cousins, aunts and uncles, play outdoor games, and eat the fresh meat and vegetables that they raised on their land. What a great experience to commune together and share stories about our ways of life. Big Mama loved having the chance to go “back home” for a day. I only have a limited memory of these get-togethers, which no doubt means we didn’t have nearly enough of them.

Flowers for the homegoing ceremony
Flowers for the homegoing ceremony

Don't Wait to Honor Ancestors

When Big Mama died, one month shy of her 96th birthday, the family members all came together to say their good-byes. While the funeral dressers did a beautiful job of presenting her for the farewell, she just didn’t look like the lady I remembered. Perhaps it was because the abundant life that always dwelled within her had flown away. Not long after her death, some of our family members wondered why we’d never planned an official family reunion as a way to honor our oldest relatives while they were alive. We wanted to connect the dots to be able to fully appreciate the portrait of our heritage, so that younger generations would understand where they came from and what it took to get here.

Our Spiritual Inspiration

Big Mama and her husband, Rev. C.A. (who died many years earlier) had six children who all lived in the same town. (We affectionately refer to their children as the “Six-Pack”.) Representatives of each Six-Pack member came together as a committee and decided to begin a family tradition of having an annual family reunion involving our relatives, friends church and community. We picked a date in the summer that we would come together to celebrate our ancestors. It would be a 3-day affair beginning on Friday with registration and a sizzling Fish Fry. On Saturday, we would have a rollicking Family Fun Day and pig roast Cook-Out at the state park. To round it off we would have a toe-tapping, hand-clapping Sunday worship service at the “home church,” followed by a dinner banquet in the church annex to honor the extraordinary people who brought us into the world. It would be a long overdue tribute; a small way to thank our parents and grandparents for all the sacrifices that they made for us. We were all anxious to get down to business, to make sure we could pull it off in a way that would make our relatives proud. While we all had regrets that our beloved Big Mama would never get to attend the first official reunion, we were uplifted by the fact that her loving spirit was the inspiration for it all.

Grandma's Hands

Whats Your Family Experience?

Do you feel that you missed a special opportunity to make time for your family? Was there an event in your life that caused you or your relatives to organize a family gathering?

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    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Funny, I just attended another family funeral yesterday. Being together with all the relatives was an event of happiness and sadness.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing ! It brings to mind the values of heart and home, and the strength of families.

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I feel so blessed that most of my family is just a car drive away and it is such a privilege to be able to share the stories of relatives who have passed on.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Fascinating hub - and yes, family get-togethers are important. My mother-in-law died this year aged 103. It seemed like she would always be there. I'm an ex-pat and my immediate family are far away so visits are not always easy. I envy people with family in reach - thank you for this lovely story.

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I appreciate your comments MrsBrownsParlour and I encourage you to connect and re-connect with your family members to create special memories.

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image

      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Warm, welcoming, poignant writing---a touching tribute and important reminder to value all of our loved ones as long as they are with us. Thank you for sharing this, it is a blessing to read! :-)

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      We all try to stay in touch because we don't know when "our time" will come. I feel blessed that I live within a 4-hour drive of our family reunion. It's so great to see everyone and to find out how their lives have changed since the last time I saw them. Don't you just love family?

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      This is a great tribute to Big Mama. Both sides of my family (my mother's and my father's) have a family reunion every summer. Lots of people go, especially the ones close enough, but I'm more than 1800 miles away, so I haven't been there in a long time. You have some great memories here.

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks MsDora. Anytime is the right time to get together with family and share those memories.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for sharing these precious memories. Makes me have some of my own.

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for your comments. She lives on in our hearts.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 5 years ago from North Texas

      What a lovely tribute to Big Mama! Voted up and beautiful.

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      You might be surprised at how much you would have to talk about with your family and how much they would enjoy hearing the stories of your sea adventures. You would surely be an inspiration to the younger generation who would no doubt marvel at your experiences.

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 5 years ago from The High Seas

      What a wonderfully written account! There are many good stories to be read but not many that read as well as this one. I come from a large family myself and this made me miss them. I haven't spoken to any of them in over a decade and I'm sure they think it's because I don't like them but the truth is we just don't have anything to talk about. I'd bet a new jib sail that I could tell you exactly what they are doing and talking about right now without even having to be near them. I was always a little too adventurous for them i guess. Thanks for sharing your memories.

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks Alecia! I hope you'll come back to read more about my family; the challenges we faced and the joy we experienced in putting together our family reunion.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I love the song you put at the end! And you're right time is to short for us to only see each other at funerals. Beautiful hub!

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Yes, just like ours. Controlled chaos is so much fun, isn't it?

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      My family gets together once every 2 years for our family reunions. It's quite crazy but a ton of fun :)

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 5 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I always do :-)

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      WOW! 90th birthday! I know that you are happy that were able to celebrate that milestone with your aunt and family members. Always keep them close to your heart.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 5 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Very nice article! You are so right. The time to visit family is not when they can't talk anymore! My husband and myself are just coming back from a family reunion in Europe to celebrate the 90th birthday of one of his aunt. Meeting family is where you can create precious moments and memories to keep forever!

      Voted up and awsome!

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I still love those cookies :-)

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I finally get it. When the immediate family gets so widespread with grandchildren and in-laws you must share holidays with and cousins living all over the country - that's how family reunions came to be. You do get tired of just seeing each other at funerals. And weddings are so expensive any more you are lucky if you can invite even out to first cousins.

      Balony sandwiches with mayo and cookies like they serve at VBX. I have those memories too. Think I'll call my brother in Texas! Thanks.

      SHARING

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks tammyswallow. Consider pulling together a family weekend just for fun. Then come back and hub about it. We'd love to share your experiences.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Very sad but so true. My family doesn't get together at all anymore since my Grandma died, just for the occasional funeral. I'd rather spend happy time with family members. Great hub!

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Yes jpcmc, that is true. It's so special to get to know more about ourselves by learning about our ancestors.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      This is a great hub. We often forget how special we are because of our family. We need to cherish every moment with them. Moreover, we should keep in touch whenever we can. family gatherings are essential to keep the ties strong.

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I know RedElf. I am just glad we decided to honor our parents and their siblings in time for our children to spend quality time with them. Life really is too short!

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

      Well said, Your Cousins. All too often we seem to wait for a funeral to get the family together - how sad.

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Glad you were touched. It's good to dust off those old memories that have been stored away and share them with others.

    • profile image

      connie morrison 5 years ago

      Your words ring home for me. They are so very true.

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks midget38. Be sure to hug a relative today!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Awesome.....we don't spend enough time with our families, certainly!! Great take on that, and very touching. Voted up!

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      It is an event that we look forward to every summer. Thanks for the comment!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Awesome and Beautiful!!! This is very inspirational to get family together!! Well Done!!!

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Yes Josh, our ancestors have so many experiences. Don't let them get away without sharing them!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      your cousins,

      Thanks for this awesome hub! My family has not done many get togethers, but we definitely should be! Thanks for the inspiration and motivation!