As I shared last week, family reunions are a regular calendar event for us. And it's an unfortunate fact of life that funerals and memorial services are another time when family gathers. It always feels just a bit weird to be happy to see cousins, aunts and uncles at a time when we are saying goodbye to another. But we also get it, that it's OK to have that range of emotions on such a day.
Such was the case last Friday when the Ritchie clan gathered to say goodbye to Aunt Dot. The service was very nice, full of reminders of a life well lived, of two sons who she and Uncle Bill raised well but who gave her a run for her money in their younger years, of favorites she was known for like pretzel jello and cranberry bread. Her choir mates brought beautiful music without shedding a tear (how did they do that?) and we fittingly sang Amazing Grace together. We felt that inexplicable mourning and comfort going hand in hand.
The church graciously provided a luncheon after the late morning service.
the cousins gradually brought extra chairs around a table to talk and remember, to catch up and reminisce.
To tease and share photos and enjoy the comfortable commeraderie of family who are also friends.
I love my cousins and I also like them. And I know it's not that way in all families so I'm thankful it is in mine.
I'm also thankful that dresses aren't quite as itchy as they used to be for three little girls . . . .
My Mom had old photos of my cousin, Andy, who is Aunt Dot's older son (and as he didn't fail to remind us whenever his younger brother Dave was out of earshot, the better looking one.)
There were also some conversations about a walrus but we won't go into that here. : ) Suffice it to say that the girl cousins had no trouble ganging up on the outnumbered boy cousins once again . . .
and that conversations both serious and light hearted flowed comfortably.
I'd dare to say they still don't like wearing ties . . . just like those Christmas gatherings long ago. But what I remember most was that these guys always took the time to play with their younger, and I'm sure more that once annoying, little cousin.
I remembered them making whirlpools in the toodeepformetoswiminit pool and thinking, "Oooo, I want to be big like my cousins and do that!" I remember them being daredevils and motor heads and always up to something fun, and I wish there was another reason to enjoy catching up with them besides remembering their Mom and her special touch on all our lives.
Traditionally in our family photos, Clan "Chiefs" always sit in the front while the rest of the gang who could make it fills in behind.
Today we were not really saying good bye but just we'll see you later.
Two days later more goodbyes were happening as the 2012 staff at Camp Sandy Cove bid farewell to their last cabin of the summer, packed up their own gear and started heading home. We all made the trek to pick up Logan and it's a good thing we did as he regaled us on the whole drive home with stories of campers and Captain Cookout and all things that make up a summer as a Chief. At Camp Sandy Cove the Indian theme from the earliest days of that camp continues and in his best high "Scout" (10 and 11 year old boys) voice, we heard many of the "Chief Logan" camperisms . . . you know . . . the ones that go . . .
"Chief, I have to go to the bathroom"
"Chief, is this enough wood?"
"Chief, can we please go play Gaga?"
"Chief, I don't like this kind of cereal"
"Chief, I forgot my . . ."
"Chief, I can't find my . . . "
Oh my, I remember those days. Great training for teaching and parenting. Being on 24/7 with the girls of Shawnee or Seminole and later the girls who were in training to become Chiefs (my favorite).
I'm not sure I can even begin to explain how it makes my heart sing that my firstborn, my son, spent this summer being a Chief. Loving it. Being good at it. Opening his Bible with boys from homes where there are more Books than family members and guys who have no idea what the New Testament even is. Taping plastic forks to his hands to be Wolverine for Superhero Week. Getting the little guy who has worn his bathing suit for four days straight to go take a shower and put on clean boxers - now! Jumping in the mud pit (not a good combo with 4 days in the same clothes!) or having greased watermelon contests in the pool for Cabin Night. Singing "OHHHHHHHH, the Sandy Cove bunch is the truest and the best. . . " Wrapping his long arms around his guys and loving on them so they can understand just a little more how much Jesus loves them.
Last summer when my daughter was at camp for her final summer as a camper (sigh . . .), the wonderful woman who was my director at CSC (that would be the big Chief herself) was visiting camp, since her son is now the director. When I took Logan to meet her and she discovered he was a Youth Ministries major, she looked right at him in her discerning way and said, "Well, I know where you're working next summer!"
As usual, she called that one right.
And this Mom and Chief has a proverbial lump in her throat, reflecting on not just the Clan Chiefs and their children, my cousins,
but the wonder of God's call on the heart of a Chief who is both carrying on the Camp Sandy Cove legacy so well and blazing his own trail with that oh so familiar camp combination of excellence, craziness and love.