“Living is the same thing as dying. Living well is the same thing as dying for others.”
(Taken from my journal, August 2)
We arrived at 7:05, wiggling with anticipation and keen excitement. As we pulled into the Kelly driveway, I couldn’t help but shout—“Aunt Brennie!” until other kids joined in, doubling the ecstatic flavor of feverishness in the car.
The moment the car stopped, the side door somehow magically swung back and we tumbled out crazily into laughing and crying relatives’ arms.
The moment I stepped out, just seeing the purest form of joy on the faces around me pulled me into tears.
Grandma was first. The tears were welling in her eyes as she pulled me into a long embrace. She was rubbing my back and stroking my hair and kind of crying and whispering the ‘I missed yous’ and ‘I love yous’ that can never get old. I couldn’t bear to pull loose, but when I did, I saw my great aunt.
This was when I really started bawling. These people meant the world to me—here were some of the most amazing and godly people that weren’t ashamed to laugh and embrace life wholeheartedly, not letting chances to love slip through their fingers.
My hug with Aunt Brennie was the longest. Man alive, how I missed her.
Next thing I know, we’re all bursting into the house, into the waiting arms of more expectant relatives.
I couldn’t stop grinning.
We hug, and talk and laugh, and I stand around, still smiling. This is so beautiful, my heart screams.
We eat dinner—a real Southern one, too. Chicken and dumplings, rolls, baked green bean casserole and a sweet potato casserole emitting heavenly scents. Soda, chips, eight pies, three cakes, and more.
I carry my food to sit outside by my sisters, and watch the glorious sunset melt into the horizon.
Hot chai tea, and Walt Whitman poetry, more laughter (and more laughter), stories spun, memories relived, and recipes swapped.
The women take the kitchen, huddled around the island and the table, giggling and talking.
As we get ready to leave, I hesitate. I don’t want to go.
But here I am, in my Aunt Bettye’s house (and more specifically, her bathroom, on the toilet lid, writing) I think about all those words exchanged that made me smile or blush or swell with pride, and acknowledge (rather sadly) that I can’t capture them all.
I can try to describe how everyone smiled, or how the bitter tea warmed me right down to my toes, or the laughter—but I still can’t.
Honest and raw beauty, I tell you.
(I apologize for no photos from the reunion. I was stupid enough to leave my Nikon at home. :( )