Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Family Reunion (06/05/08)
TITLE: The Real Family Reunion
By Connie Dixon
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“Hey Diner, we’re really gonna miss you at the family reunion this year!” Unfortunately, there was no way on earth that she could possibly make it. Dianne and her husband Gary were not regulars on the “Lyng Family Reunion” circuit. But for the past couple years they had made it a priority to attempt the 100+ mile drive north of Colville to the remote cabin tucked away amidst Douglas firs and sleepy mountain streams; the serene setting occasionally disrupted by the laughter and hugs of those who had not seen each other since the previous summer gathering. You see, my sister got cancer about 5 years ago, and had been fighting for her life ever since they received the dreadful news.
Before responding to my statement, there was a pause. “I’m going to miss you too!” Her voice sounded different. The change is hard to explain. Everyone said that Dianne and I sounded exactly the same on the phone. Even Mom had to ask which one of us she was talking to before she could carry on a conversation. But now there was a saintliness to her voice; a warmth that I had never detected before. “Where are you?” I asked. “I hear music in the background; do you have the radio on?” There was a chuckle in her speech as she replied, “Oh, can you hear it? Excitedly she proclaimed: “There’s this amazing choir singing right outside my front door!” Her reaction was perplexing. In the past 53 years that I had known my sister, her fondness for music was almost non-existent; she rarely listened to it and seldom attended traditional concerts.
The small talk continued as she inquired about how my husband Mike and I were doing, how things were going at my job, what our summer plans were, etc…..you know the usual. Eventually the conversation turned back to this upcoming family event. I spoke first. “It’s going to be kind of quiet up there this year.” Over time our family tradition had been challenged. Aunt Jean wouldn’t be there because she doesn’t have transportation all the way over from Seattle. Uncle Ray and Aunt Evie were no longer capable of making the lengthy trip from Sacramento due to their declining health. Aunt Barbara was killed instantly in a car accident. Uncle Axel? Bone cancer. There were others too, but I particularly missed my Dad. His heart had finally given up on him about 8 years ago. After some discussion, we concluded that the number of attendees at this particular gathering was looking pretty bleak.
The hour was over in what seemed like an instant. I couldn’t bring myself to say good-by without one closing plea: “Are you sure you can’t make it up for just one final get-together? It just won’t be the same without you!” Dianne replied, this time without hesitation, “I don’t expect you to truly understand, but someday you’ll appreciate the fact that even though I couldn’t be there with you physically, my heart was never far away and my love for our family never wavered.” After a long silence, she closed with these words. “By the way, Dad told me to tell you that he loves you and misses you, and he can’t wait until you get up here for your first real family reunion.”
My dream was abruptly halted by the reality that Dianne was gone, snatched away from this life by a cruel death that tormented its victim as well as its weary spectators. The intrusion brought a new-found hope that one day, the “Lyng” relatives would be eternally reunited; a sea of familiar faces distinguished by recognizable features. All would be invited to the everlasting party, a perpetual celestial bash that held no conclusion, no casualties and no sorrow.
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