“We Were a Family Once More,” Ensign, June 1994, 65
When my 29-year-old son, Matt, asked me why we never had family reunions, I said, “Some of us have uncomfortable feelings among us. I don’t think anyone would come.” My four surviving siblings and I hadn’t all been together in one place since my father’s funeral thirty-one years earlier. Ten years earlier, my older brother had been on military duty during the Iran crisis and didn’t receive word that my mother had died until after her funeral. I hated to think that it might take another death to bring us all back together.
Matt urged me to phone my three brothers and one sister and ask if they’d come to a reunion at my place. To my surprise, each was enthusiastic and expressed their long-standing hopes that we would all get together again sometime.
It had been eighteen years since some of my family had seen my oldest brother. His hair was gray, and he walked and talked just like our father, bringing back sweet memories of Dad. Because he couldn’t take time off from work, my youngest brother drove all night Friday, arrived Saturday morning, and returned home twenty-four hours later. My sister and her family brought their motor home and spent the whole week with us, and I relished every minute of their visit.
Saturday afternoon was the big reunion. Matt had decided that if my brothers and sisters were going to make the effort to come, it should be worth their time. On his computer, he prepared and personalized a family history book for each of them, going back seven generations and including all the family pictures and stories we could find. As my brothers and sister looked through their books, mouths dropped open and tears fell, and they expressed amazement and gratitude for the love Matt had put into the work.
I shared a family letter to our parents that I had recently written, recalling spiritually significant events from my childhood and mentioning recent accomplishments of my family members. We took turns sharing our feelings about our parents and our lives together as a family. When I told my older brother how sorry I was for being such a stinker of a little sister, he laughed and assured me that he hadn’t been holding any negative feelings. Other family members who had experienced more serious clashes spoke in private and changed misunderstandings to feelings of love and respect. Before parting, we planned our next reunion and promised to keep in closer touch.
A few days after the reunion, my youngest brother called to tell me that his National Guard reserve unit had been summoned to Saudi Arabia. Divorced and childless, he said that because of the family reunion, he could go to war knowing that he had a family who loved him and would pray for him.