Don't let life pass you by

This past weekend I had a unique opportunity to witness first-hand the importance of family from an outsider’s perspective.

Allen Vance invited me to visit the Vance and Stevens family reunion in Hawk Springs. During my time in Hawk Springs, I was introduced to several of the Vance and Stevens family members from all across the nation. They were all incredibly friendly and kind-hearted.

I told them all why I was there, and they all immediately began sharing stories with me and introducing me to other family members. It was outstanding to see a huge family all in one place and sharing in one another’s company.

It was such an incredibly heart-warming feeling to see all of these family members conversing and reminiscing.

After leaving, I thought about the last time I had seen some of my family members, especially those from other places around the nation. It has been way too long and there are family members I will never be able to see again due to their passing.

Another thought this brought to mind was, “when was the last time I attended a family reunion?” The more and more I thought about it, the more I realized it had been way too long. In fact, the most recent family gathering, with more than a handful of people, was when I was a small child.

It seems as though families don’t have reunions much anymore. There are a few that hold on tight to the tradition of having a reunion, but the majority just tend to move on and live their own lives without coming back to their roots and gathering as a “whole” family.

I have missed out on many opportunities to come together with my family, and I resent that fact. There are so many questions I have for those who have passed, and so much I long to know. So much of family history is maintained by the “family genealogist,” and passed down generation to generation, but there is so much more to learn about one’s family than what is written down or shared.

For instance, going back to February of 2016, I attended my late great-grandmother’s funeral in my hometown of North Platte, Nebraska. At the time, I was living with my wife, who is originally from Lingle, in Valentine, Nebraska.

Before the funeral service, I was reading through my grandmother’s obituary, and was shocked beyond belief when I read the third paragraph of the obituary.

“Mary later moved to Lingle, WY to work for her aunt and uncle. While in Wyoming Mary met Eldon Cooper ‘Pappy’ Farmer…”

The shock and bewilderment were overwhelming; my very own great grandparents had met in Lingle, the hometown of my wife and now our home. As soon as I read how she and my great-grandfather had met in the very town I would one day live in, I wanted to ask her so many questions. I began asking everyone at the funeral if they knew anything about how they met or what they were doing, and nobody had any answers. It was heartbreaking to know that bit of history had passed on with her.

Though I wasn’t able to get the answers I sought then, I remind myself to do my best to stay in contact with my family and loved ones as often as I can. Besides that, a phone call to loved ones can brighten their day more than one might ever imagine.

Don’t make the same mistake I did. Take the time to visit your family members, whether in person or on the phone, it is incredible what you might learn from them.