Since Mom and Dad died, we have made a concerted effort to hold family reunions.

We held our first family reunion in 2017, after their passing. At that reunion, we set the date for a 2019 family reunion for my brother, sisters, the spouses, and all their kids, and grandkids.

We divvied up the responsibilities and looked ahead to bringing together, as much family as possible.

Mom was extremely committed to family time. So much that she had everyone, children, grandchildren and greats, to Sunday dinner, each and every Sunday. She was fixed in purpose and very dedicated.

She put her tiredness, age, health and limited budget aside and faithfully purchased and prepared Sunday dinner for a growing family.

What I wouldn’t do for one of her Sunday roasts, mashed potatoes, noodles and pudding pies.

When family passes, I believe the best thing we can do is to keep the traditions rolling and “turn the heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6).

Reunions can and will strengthen family bonds, I have no doubt.

Of course, we can’t hold weekly Sunday dinners, when we are spread from Washington State to Arizona, Atlanta, New York and seven other states.

So a family reunion every two to three years is possible.

As a matter of fact, as we grew closer to the three day 2019 reunion, we felt we should also hold a one day reunion for mom’s side of the family, too. Even though all of mom’s siblings were gone, other than Aunt Rose, one sister-in-law, there were plenty of cousins from that side, still around.

When I flash back to grandpa (mom’s dad), the farm, the cousins, and the HUGE Sunday dinners, I have sweet wonderful memories.

We’d spend most of every Sunday, between church services, playing with cousins and sharing Sunday dinner at the farm.

There was no TV, and there were no videos or cell phones. In fact, Grandpa never had a landline.

However, Grandpa did have a kickball, a bat, some homemade bases, swings, large trees, chickens, Betsy the horse, outhouse, plenty of fresh vegetables, an ice cream freezer, and lots of family.

It was agreed upon. We planned ahead for two reunions in one weekend during 2019, and reached out to all the family.

Thank goodness for Facebook. I hadn’t seen some of the cousins since the ’60s, but we found nearly every one.

Sister Laura was great working on the family history lines. She prepared each of us a notebook filled with marriage certificates, several generation sheets, and tidbits from family lines.

Soon enough the 2019 family reunion arrived. It was amazing. Aunt Rose was there with Sue, Nancy, Bill, Gary and all their children. It had been years since I’d seen Bill and Gary. Uncle Chuck’s kids’ Kitty, Fran, Chuckie, their kids and grandkids were there,.

Then you add in our side. Whew, what an incredible weekend!

It was amazing. We kicked off the reunion with a few beach days. We held multiple potlucks, games for the kids, trips to market, visits to amusement parks, and ate breakfast at a marvelous Pennsylvania Dutch smorgasbord.

Laura, Judy, and Kelly opened their homes for the cookouts and potlucks.

The great-grandkids designed capes, danced, had a peanut scramble, kicked soccer balls and cooked marshmallows.

Gosh the time went so fast. I cry too much when I leave family.

As I wished Laura goodbye at the train, my favorite mode of travel, I cried like a baby. How I wish I didn’t live so far.

Although I did bring something unplanned, home, from the reunion. Sadly, several of us did.

It was the nasty four-day flu.

Once home, I unloaded the suitcases and viewed three weeks of mail. Suddenly, while reading the mail, my vision went out.

It was the strangest thing. Not one relative had lost their vision with the flu. Rather than worry, I went to bed.

The next morning, when I woke, I answered the phone and I couldn’t talk. My speech was slurred and I could not pronounce my words.

I quickly walked to the mirror and noticed that half of my face was drooping, along with my mouth.

I was having a stroke.

Next week, part 2.

Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County's Family Week Foundation. Email her at