A little over 15 years ago my husband Chris and I moved to Louisville. We had just been married for 8 months and we were living life as adventurous newlyweds. We were living it up, taking spur of the moment trips, enjoying couples date nights, plays, dinners and dancing. We were equally situated between my parents in Cleveland and his family in Memphis and we loved spending time with both families. Fast forward to 2018 and we have added our 2 kids, Estella who is 11 and Christopher who is 9 to the journey. Life is definitely still an adventure, but now our adventure includes getting anywhere on time, juggling all of their activities and trying if possible to get any sleep. Between work as an immigration attorney, the kids’ activities, birthday parties and their lemonade business, The Lemonade Baristas that they share with their friend Rayna, it seems that time is in short supply. That’s why making time for events on our calendar like my annual family reunion can feel not only daunting, but an event to simply push off to next year. I mean honestly, remember it’s an annual family reunion. And, next year we’ll be better prepared, right? Maybe, but will the people that you love be here next year?
This year, as usual, I chose to make the reunion a priority on our calendar. So, we packed up the van and traveled to Columbus and I am so glad that we did. We connected, reconnected and revitalized. We met cousins from California, Nevada, Ohio and Kansas for the first time. We learned valuable stories of our ancestor’s lineage and celebrated milestones, accomplishments and engagements. We hugged aging relatives, held babies that were just born, delighted in family recipes and had an overall amazing time. We studied our family tree and learned for the first time that our family line has connections to men and women who colonized our nation and were Revolutionary War heroes. And then, while pouring over old family photos, I came across a group photo at the lake when I was about 16 years old. My eyes prickled as I remembered staple family members who NEVER missed a reunion because they valued this time to fellowship. I lingered over the beautiful faces of my grandmother, mother, father, sister, Amy, and so many cousins, aunts and uncles who had all passed. I yearned to give them a hug or share a family update, but they will forevermore only be cherished in my memories. In that moment I was so thankful that I had decided to make my annual family reunion a priority. I was thankful that I could tell the people in my life who love and support me that they are important to me and I am thankful to spend time with them. I was thankful that my kids built on their relationships with cousins and established new Facebook and Instagram friends who will be cheering them as they go through life.
Reflecting over the weekend, I remember my late aunt would always say, ‘give me my flowers while I’m still living.’ Now that she is no longer with us, the wisdom of her words inspires me to show and share my love for family through my time. Though life can get chaotic and there are a million legitimate reasons why we can’t, the reward of living without regret is worth finding a way to say we can. We can budget and plan to go to our family reunion, we can schedule that lunch we’ve been putting off, we can visit with our uncle in the nursing home, we can write to our cousin who doesn’t email, and we can call our aunt who’d love to hear our voice. Whether it is your biological family or friends that you cherish as family, don’t take time spent with them for granted. Time is not promised, so it is important to make valuable family time a priority. You will not regret making authentic connections with family a priority because you will be richly rewarded as you enjoy them, refuel with them and continue to create treasured memories for years to come.
Have fun and journey on!