It had not happened since, well, I can't remember when. My three brothers, wives and kids all converged on our Mother's condo this week, celebrating a belated Christmas and early New Year. We could smell the dinner she prepared as soon as we got off the elevator, reminiscent of days walking through the kitchen door at our childhood home. The aroma foreshadowed great things to come, erasing the taxing seven-hour drive through heavy rain.
The condo, a comfortable two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath on the fourth floor began to bulge as fifteen people filed in. The normally quiet abode was anything but. Voices rang out in greeting, laughter swelled, plates clattered, and glasses clinked when filled with ice water. Mother's table, brought from her home of fifty years, grew for the occasion with the extra leaves inserted. Still, a card table provided additional spots. The four male cousins needed no convincing to claim that precious piece of real estate.
When all was prepared, Mother gathered us together as we joined hands to make a large but lopsided circle. I noticed a familiar twitch in her nose. I knew what that meant. We both do it prior to breaking out in tears. Her eyes briefly studied the face of each family member. No longer was she looking at young children and even younger grands. She was looking at a roomful of responsible adults. Who ever thought this day would come so soon?
Thankfully, all fifteen didn't have to sleep wall-to-wall. We were able to spread out to a guest room in the retirement center and a cousin's local home. But by dawn's early light, we came back together to run, discuss, laugh, and, of course, eat. No fights. No bad attitudes. Just family time worthy of a Normal Rockwell painting.
But someone was missing. Dad was called home to heaven before any of his grandkids were even born. His memory, his legacy, however, is not easily forgotten. But this year, it was as though he was there.
I wasn't the only one who felt it. Each one in that room sat in stunned silence, viewing the painting through misty eyes, each lost in thoughts and memories. It was like he was our special guest that night. "It's because of Dad we're all here," Dan offered.
But I couldn't help but add, if only to myself, "Yes. And it's because of Him," referencing Jesus, "that we'll all be there."
"Thank you, Lord. Thank you!"