Family Gatherings Make Me Ache

Do yourself a favor and take two Advil before you get there,” a friend said. And I laughed, even though it wasn’t funny. Sometimes I laugh to keep from crying. During prayer request time at the little church I was attending, I had raised my hand. “I’m going to a family gathering today,” I had said. “Pray for me.”

My parents separated back in 1988, when I was 17. Over thirty years later, big family gatherings still make me ache. I want relationships restored. I want dead people recalled to life. I want all the I’m sorrys to be said and heard, and all the you’re forgivens to be said and heard, too. That’s why I request prayer. That’s why I sometimes take Advil.

But that’s also why I cook and bake and set out china on a white tablecloth. I’m fighting against those aches. I spread a welcome table, because Christ spread his arms for me. I light candles, because light has come into the world, and that light is the life of mankind. Trauma and pain, death and divorce—these things won’t have the final say.

Last year, we hosted Thanksgiving at our house, and a relative of a relative showed up at our door. Pug is 93. She strutted to the table like she was 35, and she situated herself there, grasping a glass of wine. “I’ve had nine lives,” she laughed. And I laughed, too. A real laugh, not the kind of laugh that’s trying not to cry.

Life really does goes on and on and on. This isn’t all there is. The best is yet to come.