How can I thank you all for coming to our family reunion? Seventy people gathered together yesterday, many who met each other for the first time in their lives. Whether if we were first cousins or sixth cousins, we all became family yesterday. Meeting you all on Facebook has been great, but to meet you in person was even better! Imagine, old-fashioned face to face human contact in this modern technological world! But let’s not forget that technology is the medium that has brought us together again. It even allowed us to “talk” and “see” our uncle, aunt, and cousins, 2,000 miles away and yet have them participate in our reunion. I hope each of you know that it was because you made the effort to be there that all of my efforts became worthwhile.
For those of you who do not know, thirteen years ago I had a bacterial infection that became pervasive and invaded all of my vital organs. I woke from an induced coma after being on a respirator for a week in a hospital. I had been in congestive heart failure, respiratory arrest, and renal failure. In spite of the 80% mortality rate, I lived. Hundreds, perhaps thousand, of parents had died only a few months before me in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. And yet, somehow, I was being given the gift of survival and had the chance to go home again to see and raise my children. This felt like an enormous burden to me at the time, and I spent many hours crying during my recovery. I knew I wasn’t anything special, there was nothing that separated me from those parents, and I didn’t feel worthy of this enormous gift. So I asked God to let me know what I could do for Him and asked Him to place it in front of me in my life. I hoped I could find little opportunities to repay Him for this enormous gift.
In the hospital, I woke up one morning and I saw my grandmother, my father’s mother, standing in front of me. I was amazed because she had died when I was eleven and because in the years before her death, both of her legs had been amputated after her battle with gangrene. But I was frightened because I didn’t want her to come and take me now. Even though I had survived, the doctors told me that I wasn’t “out of the woods yet.” And so I closed my eyes and prayed, “Please don’t come and take me now.” When I opened my eyes again, she was gone. A few months later, I was at a baby shower for my cousin’s wife, and I told his sister, I think we should have a reunion. She said she would help me and that summer, thirteen years ago, we had a picnic for my father’s siblings and their children. The grandmother who had appeared before me in the hospital had divided her family through holding grudges and passing judgment on whether or not someone should be included in our family gatherings. That reunion was a time for healing. Cousins saw their cousins and uncles for the first time in decades. There were tears and hugs and stories to be shared. Thankfully, we did have that reunion at that time, because so many of them are no longer with us.
Yesterday’s reunion went beyond my father’s siblings and their descendants. It included the descendants of his fathers’ father’s mother’s grandparents. It also included descendants of my father’s mother’s (the grandmother who had appeared to me in the hospital) father’s father. And it included the same grandmother’s mother’s parents’ descendants. There was even a cousin there who was from my mother’s side of my family who I also hadn’t seen since I was a little girl. Unlike the reunion of thirteen years ago, this was not a reunion of mending hearts, this was a reunion of sharing joy. This was a reunion of sealing the deal on becoming a family.
From the cousins that I grew up with to the cousins I have just met, I love you all. I really mean that and I hope we will stay in touch. We really don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we had yesterday to share together. And if any of you have a reunion, big or small, I expect an invitation! Finally, thank you all for helping me repay an old debt.
http://www.theresadodaro.com Author of The Tin Box Trilogy