Today was warm and smokey.
A forest fire about 40km north of us is being fought and the winds are filling our harbour and lungs with it’s smoke. We have been lucky over the last couple of years without having any major fires due to the hot dry conditions. This is the first.
Although I wondered about the danger, I continued to walk into the smoke which smelled reminiscent of the summer campfires we enjoyed during our camping trips, so far this year. (At the moment, there is a campfire ban.) Which got me thinking about the family reunion that we traveled up to Quesnel, BC for this past July.
About a week or so before the reunion, I got a request to provide a speech for the event and a small presentation to the remaining elders. As a dedicated Toastmaster any chance to practice public speaking is welcoming, however in front of relatives, where if I bomb, there is no hiding from can be a little stressful.
What even to say?
I could obviously talk about the history of the family. Where they are from, why they left and what lead them to where we are today. That was the easy part. But I needed a theme to follow. Something to thread all this information through.
In Cache Creek there is a diner called, The Bear Creek Restaurant where I found my theme. On it’s walls were signs, hand crafted with humorous and thoughtful sayings painted on wood, all for purchase. One in particular caught my eye.
Where Life Begins and Love Never Ends
Well, that pretty much sums up the reunion and why we are holding on. It’s for Family.
Think about it…a reunion holds several generations of people, who are all there because of two people, who cared and loved each other enough and who thought that “Hey, we can always use more help around the farm!” Had children, who had children and so on.
Regardless of what happened after, that is where it started and your (I’m) here because of it.
My speech told about the history of the family, dating back to the 1600’s in Chawleigh, England, moving to homestead in Peterborough, Ontario and then leading to farming in Marsden, Saskatchewan and finally settling in Vernon, BC.
A side from the details of their travels, I found something else that was deeper in their history. I found Heroes.
Not in the sense that we might think of a hero today but in the characteristics of a hero. One who ventures into the unknown, who took a risk into unexplored territory and who dealt with new challenges that required ‘courage’. Those were the hero’s I found.
People who took hard challenges, circumstances that knocked them down and yet continued to get up, dust themselves off and carry on to strive for a higher purpose – providing something better for the future, then what they left behind.
I found ‘suffering’.
Have you ever thought about the phrase ‘how are you’?
That phrase that seems to roll past our tongues during casual encounters with others and wonder – do you really care or is it just a nice thing to say?
While some may just make it a trivial thing, I believe there is a more deeper meaning to the ‘why’ we say it. It’s because we all suffer.
We can not know what good is until we have gone through the bad. Suffering is part of life. We certainly don’t like it and we do many things to avoid it and yet in the end, how do we know happiness unless there is sadness. The Ying has to have the Yang – one can not exist without the other.
Raising kids is hard. Work is hard and so is aging, sickness and even facing death is hard. Doing it alone, without the love and wisdom of family is even harder.
One of the family members quote of the weekend, “Who ever said that these are the golden years must have had a pocket full of fools gold!”
Another characteristic was being responsible. Or how I and Covey like to put ‘response – able’.
When things needed to be done and if they were ‘able’, members responded. They did it as a family and they did it as a community.
Many times they put their own personal goals aside for the greater good of the community or family. Reaching those higher planes of being in service to others, knowing that giving was always better than receiving.
There were many tears at the family reunion. Some of joy and some of sorrow. Some shed knowing that others did not come and were missed or that knowing that by not being there, they missed an opportunity that may never come again.
A family reunion is a time of reflection, of taking inventory of what is important, of making new choices and revisiting the values that are important to oneself.
It’s a time when we reflect on what all that hard work and suffering has produced and smile knowing that all this is here today because of it and we are blessed to be able to say thank you, to those that remain present and to those from the past that made it all possible.
If you have not connected with your family in a while, I encourage you to do so. Set the time aside to be present and engaged and to hear the stories. You will learn so much, not only about the history but about yourself too.