July 22, 2016

Ida’s Children…

Category: News — admin @ 6:00 pm

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It is not all bad, but it is not all good, it is not all ugly,
but it is not all beautiful, it is life, life, life…It is savage,
cruel, kind, noble, passionate, selfish, generous, stupid,
ugly, beautiful, painful, joyous — it is all these, and
more, and it’s all these I want to know…

—Thomas Wolfe
__________________

I remember hearing about it now and then, over the years. Every July, it came around. But I never paid it much mind, I have to say. The Yoder Reunion came from Mom’s side of the family. Those people were strangers to me, pretty much. And it just didn’t register in my head, that attending their annual gathering in Daviess might be an important thing to do.

I’ve touched on the subject, here and there. And there’s even a paragraph or two in my book about it. Dad didn’t get along well at all with Mom’s family. Which was fine. He didn’t have to. But it wasn’t fine, what he did about it. After John “Pappy” Yoder and most of his sons and daughters left the Amish for the Block Church, Dad cut them off from us. And he cut them off from Mom. It was a cruel and brutal thing to do. Her family could only stand by, helpless, as Dad pontificated to the whole world what it is to live right, and what it is to raise your children right, so they stay Amish. And Mom’s family mourned the loss of their Ida, or Idey, as they say her name in Daviess.

And we were raised as pure Waglers. The Yoder blood in us was never recognized or acknowledged. Oh, sure, we knew who they were, Mom’s siblings. They came around now and then, to visit, to see their sister. They were strangers to us. Dad built his wall high and wide. In one sense, he was doomed to fail. He should have known that one day we would set out on our own to break down that wall and find those he had shut off from us. But in another sense, he succeeded mightily in every way he could have hoped to.

Because Ida’s children never really got to know their blood kin. We were strangers to each other.

In 1961, the year I was born, they held their first get-together, Pappy Yoder’s family. I’m not sure if they even called it a reunion, those first few years. Just a family, the children and grandchildren, getting together and hanging out for the day. The third Saturday in July. That’s when they did it. I’m sure Mom was invited that first time. I’m sure she had an open, standing invitation every year. But she never got to go, not even once. My father’s wall stood tall and strong and searingly divisive. And it grew and grew every year, higher, wider, stronger. And time went on, like time does. And for decades and decades, it looked like the wall would stand forever.

And in all the years that passed since I left the Amish for good, I never attended the Yoder Reunion once. It’s not that I couldn’t have. It just never occurred to me that I might or should. I lived in Daviess briefly for two years when I attended Vincennes University. Back from 1989 to 1991. I don’t even remember hearing about the Reunion. I’m sure I would have been welcomed with open arms. I would have been too shy to show up, in any case.

And in the years since, I heard it now and then, probably from my sister Rachel. She stays on top of these things. “Are you going to the Yoder Reunion this year?” she would ask. “It’s the third Saturday in July.” And I always just looked at her strangely and shook my head. Nope, I got no inclination to go, I told her. I can’t see any reason to go. I don’t know those people. And I never went.

I guess sometimes it takes the next generation to see things clearly. And at least three men from that generation did. Maybe there were more, but I know of at least these three. Joseph’s oldest sons, John and David and Reuben. Good solid Amish names, right there. John and David and Reuben. In 2013, John somehow connected with my sisters, Rachel and Rhoda. They attended the Reunion, the three couples. Then last year, John went again, this time with his family and David and Reuben and their families. Around fifty people showed up for the Reunion. A pretty small group.

And as things were winding down, the Daviess Yoders looked at Joseph’s sons, all interested. Here was new blood. Ida’s grandchildren. They needed someone to host the Reunion in 2016. They talked to John and his brothers. And soon it was decided. David lives up north of Daviess, not far. In Worthington. He’s got a nice little wooded acreage. And he agreed to host the Reunion in 2016. The Daviess Yoders were delighted and maybe a little stunned. New blood. And now, a new host. From Ida’s family. That was pretty wild stuff, from what all they had seen over the years.

And so things were set, for this year. And I gotta hand it to those three nephews, Joseph’s sons. John and David and Reuben. They’re the ones who got me and my siblings all wired up to go. They sent word. Yoder Reunion at David’s place. Fill in the date. July 16, the third Saturday of the month. And I talked to my brother Steve about it, months and months ago. I’m going. If you want to go, let’s travel together. He allowed that he wanted to, and maybe his son, Ira Lee, too. And maybe even Clifford. Good, I said. Don’t sweat it, if the women don’t want to go. We’ll make a man trip out of it. And I didn’t think or fret all that much about it, as the months slowly crept by. Until last week. All of a sudden, the time was here.

We all met at Steve’s house right at six last Friday morning. I parked down by the shop. I had packed light again, for me. Just a bag, and three shirts wrapped in plastic. That should do, I figured. Clifford roared up in his Camaro. Then Ira Lee arrived, right on time. Diving a shiny black SUV he had rented the day before. We all had to fax in our driver’s licenses the day before, so we could take turns driving. I usually rent cars that look like they could be running moonshine. This black SUV was all chromed and flashy. It looked like a drug runner’s vehicle. Oh, well. It had Wisconsin plates. Maybe the cops will leave us alone, coming from a straight-laced state like that. We loaded our stuff in the back, and by a little after six, we were off, Ira Lee cruising at the wheel. Worthington, Indiana, here we come. Yoder Reunion, 2016, here we come.

We pushed along hard all day, each taking a turn at the wheel. Right at 4:30, we pulled into the wooded drive that led to David’s home place. It was a beautiful setting, with camping spots out under the trees. We pulled up and parked out by the shop, where the Reunion would come down the next day. We walked down to the house, where a few of my nephews lounged on the front porch. We joined them. Lots of people were on the road and getting close, we were told. Tonight would be Wagler family night. We leaned back and relaxed and got started with our visiting.

People drifted in, then. Marvin and Rhoda. Lester and Rachel. Ray and Maggie. Jesse and Lynda. Joseph and Iva had already arrived earlier. With Steve and me, that made seven of us. Seven of Ida’s children gathered for a singular event. David had rented an entire Bed and Breakfast, and late that afternoon, he led us over to check in. A beautiful old restored mansion, back a few blocks from the main drag in the small town of Worthington. All the rooms were self-sufficient and impeccable. I picked a corner room with a firm bed. Probably from back in the early 1900s, the old house reminded me of the scenes and settings in Thomas Wolfe’s stories of his Mama’s boarding house down South. I can’t imagine what an old restored inn like that is doing in Worthington, Indiana. I’m sure it’s gotta be a money pit. But there it was, and we were delighted to have it as our own for a few days.

Back, then, to David’s place for supper. Glen had loaded the smoker with two big old chunks of brisket way earlier that day. And there was a huge pot of country baked beans. And all kinds of fresh bread and butter, and great tub filled with cold chunks of cantaloupe and watermelon. Someone asked the blessing over the food, and then the Waglers gathered in to the feast.

Joseph was puttering around in his little battery cart. The man has seen and endured a lot in the past six years, fighting the disease that fights to kill him. He has approached the door of death more than a few times, right up close. And always, he somehow battled his way back. He got his food, and he and Iva sat at a long table off to one side. And as we got our food, we gravitated over to that table, all us siblings. And soon all seven of us were seated and eating together. We just chatted along, visiting about whatever. It was a beautiful moment, a thing all too rare and precious in the past.

Seven Siblings

I caught up with Marvin, my best friend from way back. We don’t get to see each other that often anymore, but when we do, we pretty much just pick up where we left off. He got to telling me. A month or so ago, he went up to Valentine, Nebraska, to attend the funeral of an old friend he knew real well back when he worked on the ranch, in 1979. Of course, I was all full of questions. How did the place look? Did he recognize anyone? Did he see the people I worked for that summer? He told me all about how it went, and a lot of our old memories of that time got mixed into our talk.

Out in the campground clearing, David had built a big fire ring. And we sat outside and settled around the fire as dusk closed in. And quite a fire it was. David and Glen had cut four-foot chunks off a big log. The middle of the log was hollow, just at the core. And they set the chunk up on end over the fire. The flames came shooting right out of the hollow middle. I’ve never seen such a thing done before. And we sat around talking. The two historians, well, there were three, but two sat there, talking. The three are Jesse and Reuben and Dorothy. Jesse and Reuben talked about the history of the Daviess Waglers. And they got to telling us.

I’ve mentioned it a few times before, over the years. My great-grandfather, Christian Wagler, shot himself in the head back in 1891 when he was thirty-six years old. His widow remained, and his sons and daughters. They buried Christian outside the graveyard, there in Daviess. Outside the fence. In those days, they didn’t mess around. They knew that Christian was damned forever, and that the shameful stain of his suicide would haunt his seed forever. And Jesse told us. The graveyard was eventually expanded, and Christian landed up well inside the fence. He got into the graveyard, Jesse said, without ever passing through the graveyard gate. We all mulled it over in silence for a moment. It was a strange and startling thing to contemplate.

The Wagler tales don’t stop with Christian. And it was Reuben, I think, who told us a story I had never heard before. Christian had several brothers and sisters. One of his brothers, John C. Wagler, died many years later, an old man. He decreed that he did not want to be buried in the same graveyard where his brother Christian was. He felt the shame of the family stain deeply, even after all those years. Maybe he was being over dramatic to prove a point. He was pure. He didn’t want to share any place with someone who had taken his own life. So they took John C. a few miles down the road and opened a new graveyard. The Wagler graveyard. And there he was buried, satisfied that he could rest in peace in this untainted ground.

Years and years later, John C’s own grandson did pretty much the same thing Christian had done. Knocked himself off, somehow. I don’t know what it is with these Waglers. They must have brooding blood. By then, the people paid little heed to John C’s wishes. Maybe they didn’t remember. Or maybe they just didn’t care much. They buried the grandson right there in the Wagler graveyard, close to John C’s grave. And since that time, it is said, there have been far more such troubled souls buried there close to John C. than ever were buried over where Christian was laid to rest outside the graveyard. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, I guess. Especially when you get all hifalutin’ about who you will or won’t be buried close to.

Almost exactly two years ago, little Abby left us. The anniversary of that tragedy was very much on Dorothy’s mind, on all our minds. When we met after I arrived, I hugged her hard. You’re my little niece, I told her. She laughed. “Yes, I am,” she said. And that Friday evening, right as the sun set, we had a little memorial for Abby. Not really all that formal. At the funeral, we had released hundreds of red balloons, red being her favorite color. And now balloons were handed out again. We stood around as all the little children got one. And then Dorothy led us, counting down from ten. And then we released the balloons again. Up and up, glinting red from the fire and from the setting sun, up over the trees, then north with the wind.

Chinese Candles

And then Dorothy opened a large package of Chinese candle lanterns. By now it was dark. And in the next twenty minutes, dozens of the lanterns floated up and up and headed north with the wind, glowing in many vivid colors in the darkness. After that, we all sat around the great roaring fire, and just talked and enjoyed the setting and each other. It was late when I settled into fitful sleep at the old refurbished inn. I must be getting old. Seems like my travel sleep is increasingly broken and not sound.

Saturday morning. The big day. The Reunion meal was scheduled for that afternoon at 4:30. This morning, there would be a big campfire breakfast. By 8:30 or so, we were sitting around the fire, sipping coffee. My nephew Andrew stood over the fire, tending to many pots and pans and a vast kettle hanging from an iron pole. I poked around, all interested. The vast kettle was filled with gravy, and Andrew kept stirring it vigorously. And then soon, he uncovered three or four flats of eggs. He cracked dozens of eggs into a big cast iron pan, and set it on a grate over the fire. Things were stirring, and things were looking good. Smelling real good, too.

Campfire Breakfast

And right at ten, we feasted on brunch. A kettle full of gravy, fresh biscuits, piles of scrambled eggs, and loads and loads of fried bacon strips. At a place like that, I sin grievously with my diet. It was Martin Luther, I think, who said: If you sin, sin boldly. That morning, I feasted boldly. It was simply the best breakfast I’ve enjoyed in a long, long time.

Afterward, Jesse and Reuben and Dorothy gathered whoever wanted to go to Daviess and tour the graveyards and Dad’s old home place. Steve went along, with his sons, Ira Lee and Clifford. Those two had rarely been to Daviess at all, I’m thinking. And they had never seen the places we keep talking about. So off they all went, the rented SUV sagging under the load.

The night before, we had discussed it. And that morning, John came around with the necessary stuff. A couple of large white posters. Blank. I helped Rhoda spread the two pieces on a table and tape them together. And she took a pencil and started drawing. And soon we could see the large family tree. John and Magdalena Yoder on the trunk. And then branches sprouting out, a branch for each of their children. Rhoda left plenty of space between the branches. That afternoon, the people attending the Reunion would sign their names below the proper branch. Rhoda is the artist of the family, and she drew a real nice tree. We felt pretty proud of our grand idea. And I just settled in and relaxed as midday came and went. The afternoon slowly wore on. Soon it would time. Soon the Daviess Yoders would come.

The chairs and tables were all set up in David’s shop, where we had feasted the night before. And the women soon began laying out the food. Grilled chicken, prepared by Marcus Marner and his wife, Joanne. And everyone who came would bring a dish of some food or other, David told us. That’s the rule of the Yoder Reunion. You bring food with you. And we were all pretty much set. And around 3:00 or so, the first people began to come.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it justice, the way things went and the way things felt that day. Guess I’ll just speak it as I remember it. If you come from Daviess, you can tell when you see other people who are from there. That’s about as simply as I can say it. The first cars arrived and people got out and lugged in great bowls and trays of food. We all smiled and shook hands and greeted each other. I knew the names of a few, I didn’t know the names of most. Still, it didn’t matter. I’m Ira, I said, as I shook hands. Ida’s son. Oh, we know who you are, most of them said back. And the crowd grew as the people arrived and drifted in. Amish people. English people. Daviess people. Daviess faces. Daviess blood. Daviess kin.

She arrived early and was greeted with great honor. The only person remaining from Mom’s immediate family. Aunt Sarah. She’s 91 now, and widowed. And spry and alert as ever. Way back, when she was young, she fell in love with an English man named John McGuire. They married, I don’t know when. The thing is, I never even knew a thing about her, growing up. I remember when I passed through Daviess, once, during my wanderings. I went to a cookout with friends one evening. And that night, I met my uncle Joe, Mom’s brother I never knew. And that night, this strikingly beautiful woman walked up to me and told me she’s my aunt. My Mom’s sister. It was Sarah. I was just flat out astounded.

Aunt Sarah

And now, here she was. I had not seen her in a few years. We surrounded her and hugged her. She reminds me so much of her sister, Ida Mae, when she talks. My Mom. Everyone wanted to talk to her, so I tried not to intrude too much. Someone showed her the table with the family tree, and she took the pen and signed her original branch. That was a special thing. And the family tree will be a special thing for future generations to see.

Aunt Sarah signing family tree

And people kept coming. Walking in with trays and trays and bowls and bowls of food. And soon the table groaned under the weight of almost any kind or flavor of food you can imagine, at least food from Daviess. It all looked and smelled beyond delicious. I walked about, chatting here, shaking hands there. Jonas Schrock arrived with his daughter and some of his sons. He’s on oxygen now, and in poor health. He was the husband of Mom’s younger sister, Anna, who died a decade ago from cancer. Jonas was a transplant from Holmes County, and for many years he was a powerful bishop in his Plain Mennonite church circles. He was a kind man, from all I’ve ever heard. Now, I walked up and shook his hand and spoke my name. He nodded and smiled and smiled. It took a moment for me to grasp that the man could not speak. He sat in a chair at the end of a long table, and he mightily enjoyed the place and time he was in. You could tell by his smile.

People kept drifting in with food, and the shop filled up. And soon after four, David called everyone to attention. The food would be served in fifteen minutes. He had a little mic system hooked up, and it worked very well. And a few minutes after his announcement, two people were called up front to speak a few words. My cousin, Dick Yoder, Ben’s oldest son. He usually takes care of the announcements at the Reunion. And the other person who spoke a few words was me.

David had asked me, a few hours before. “Would you speak a few words, for our family?” Sure, I said. I’ll be happy to. Now I stood back, as Dick addressed the crowd. He welcomed everyone, and thanked David and his wife Barb for hosting this event. And then he called each family out by name. All of Mom’s siblings. And as the family name was called, those people stood and held up their hands. And this year, perhaps for the first time ever, Ida Mae’s name was called. And we stood and held up our hands, me and my six siblings. And all the grandchildren who were there. It was a beautiful and powerful feeling. This year, Ida’s children stood right where they belonged.

Then Dick handed the mic off to me. And there I stood. I had not jotted down any notes. And it took only a few minutes, to speak what was on my heart to say. I thanked the hosts, of course. David and Barb. And I spoke of how grateful I was to be here, at this Yoder Reunion. Ida’s children are here this year, I said. And I just plowed right on in. We all know the reasons Mom’s family never was represented here before, I said. Choices were made years ago that were bad choices, wrong choices. But they were what they were and now we are where we are. Whatever it all was, I am grateful for this day.

And I told them. One of the hardest things I had to deal with when I was coming to grips with who my father was, was the fact that he cut us off from Mom’s family. He built a big wall. He thought he was doing the right thing. And we can never change what was, we can never change the past. Today, we are here, Ida’s children. We are honored to be here. And then I told them. It’ll never be what it would have been. It’ll never be what it should have been. But it can be something.

David took the mic, then, and I walked back to where I had been standing. Stephen Schrock, one of Jonas’ boys who took his place as bishop, then took the mic and prayed the blessing over the meal. And then the people lined up to fill their plates. It was as delicious a spread of food as I ever hope to see. There’s something about Daviess food that always takes me home. It’s Mom’s cooking. And there ain’t no better cooking anywhere. And soon the tables were full, as everyone got seated. I lurked about at the family tree table, just kind of waiting and watching. And I took my iPad up to the second floor to snap a few pics.

The meal

A funny little thing happened later as I was strolling around. A group of four or five women sat there at a table. I may have known one or two, and I may not have. They knew who I was. “Ira,” one of them said cheerfully. “You know you look like a Yoder, right? You look like Ben.” Yes, I’ve heard that before, I said. I got no problem if I look like Ben. And then one of the other ladies turned to her companions. “No, no,” she said. “He looks like Pappy Yoder, don’t you think? He looks more like Pappy than Ben.” I was a little startled. And I told her so. All my life, I’ve heard I look like Uncle Ben, I said. But I’ve never, never heard that I look even remotely like old Pappy Yoder. I’m going to have to digest that. But I guess I have no problem if I look like Pappy, either. They all laughed, and I laughed, too. Then I drifted on. Wow. I look like my grandpa. How wild is that? I thought to myself.

The afternoon just slid on by, like such times do. At some point, then, after everyone had eaten. David took the mic again. “Everyone move out to the campfire,” he told us. “There will be homemade ice cream for dessert, and fresh peach cobbler baked over the open fire. The crowd soon drifted out. I sat on the couch, visiting with my cousin Stephen Schrock, and Marvin. We got to talking about a lot of things, and next thing we knew, dusk was settling outside. We walked out then to join the others.

The crowd had stayed. No one left for home early. People lounged about in lawn chairs in a large circle around the fire, eating ice cream and chatting. Off to one side, a little band had set up. David, his brothers Glen and Sam, Dorothy, our cousin Norman Stoll, and one or two others. They belted out a good many gospel songs. I hadn’t seen Dorothy play in years. She’s a natural with the guitar and she’s a natural singer. And you could tell as you watched and listened. She was singing for us, and she was singing for Abby.

Time drifted on, and it got late. I sat here and there, chatting with different people. At a place like that, you can’t talk to everyone. It’s just not possible. So you don’t worry about it, you just talk to those you run into. And it all wound down late. People slowly got up and gathered their chairs and left. Back to Daviess it was, for most of them. And by midnight, those of us staying at the old inn had settled down for the night. Tomorrow morning there would be a brief service, there at David’s place, for those who stayed, and for the Daviess people who returned. But we were heading for home before all that came down, me and Steve and his sons. What a day it had been, this third Saturday in July, 2016. This was a Daviess Yoder Reunion like none other had ever been before. And now it was over for one more year.

It will take a while, to digest what it all was and what it all means. For me, it was a beautiful and powerful thing to connect with my roots in a way I never had before. It was time. It was past time. But then, sometimes it takes some time to figure out the right way.

The walls of long ago can be torn down. The connections, the relationships will never be what they would have been. And they will never be what they should have been. But they can be something. It’s never too late to tear down a wall.

I like to think that the Pappy Yoder family, Mom and her parents and her brothers and sisters who have passed on, I like to think that maybe their souls can rest a little easier now. It was a long hard road, but Ida’s children have returned from exile, they have circled back to their roots. After all those years, after all those long and weary miles, they are back home where they belong.

Family is family, and blood is blood. And that’s about all there is to say.

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(22 Comments) »

  1. Was waiting eagerly for this. You outdid yourself again.
    It was all so fun and wonderful to hug you!

    Comment by Dorothy — July 22, 2016 @ 7:12 pm

  2. What a wonderful family you have connected with after all these years!
    You tell your family history so well. Your Aunt Sarah is what we all would
    hope to have in our lives! You and your new family are certainly blessed.
    I’m sure your Mom was looking down on you and beaming. Thanks for
    sharing with us. I look forward to the next post.

    Comment by Vicki — July 22, 2016 @ 8:08 pm

  3. Man oh man, I can relate to being cut off from relatives. Only I can’t go to a family reunion with my Dad’s family, they are mostly all gone and also with my mothers people. But I can appreciate how well you just made yourself available to all of the kin.

    Thanks for sharing. God Bless you Mr. Ira.

    Comment by Linda — July 22, 2016 @ 9:43 pm

  4. Ira you remind me so much of how much family means. I can just feel the love and peace settling over you as you mingled with loved ones. God gives us family for a reason. Trees need roots. So do people. God bless you , thanks for sharing . I am not a betting woman but if I were I bet I know where you will be the third weekend in July 2017.

    Comment by Gena Arnold — July 23, 2016 @ 3:04 am

  5. Dear Ira,

    I relate to everything you write about. The reason why is because it’s so much like my own story. My husband and I left the Amish 30 years ago. All my Amish siblings still shun me, although they are friendly to a degree and will accept short visits. But also, in my Dad’s family (Adam Schrock) only 1 of his siblings (out of 8 children) left the Amish and we were totally separated from that family until I left and met them. I couldn’t believe how nice these relatives were, that I had never known. We still never regretted leaving. Life is so much better for us and our children, with or without the relatives.

    You are an amazing writer and I read everything you write. I’ve tried to write my own story, but I just can’t do that well.

    Comment by Lena — July 23, 2016 @ 8:18 am

  6. My inner being was touched.. Blessings to you Ira, I have high regard for your family.

    Comment by Mary Marner — July 23, 2016 @ 9:14 am

  7. I just want you to know that I read every post you send. You are sharing your life so generously. I love to read about life in New England. My grandfather was born in Pennsylvania, so I feel a connection to that area.

    Beyond that, you also offer glimpses into the Amish life. This latest blog demonstrated how long it took your mother’s children to establish relations with her family after your father cut the connection. His fear that you children would leave the Amish ways was realized by other means than the Yoder influence. How ironic!

    It was satisfying to read about the way your family began to be one again over a bountiful meal and many conversations. If only we could set aside fear and live lives of love!

    Comment by Janette — July 23, 2016 @ 2:28 pm

  8. In the kingdom of Heaven, there will be no divisions, and you just got a taste of it in this banquet with so many of your family. I have been to some Yoder family reunions and loved them too. Thank you, Ira, for capturing the feeling of family.

    Comment by Sherida Yoder — July 23, 2016 @ 2:55 pm

  9. I find it interesting how you can get up and speak extemporaneously, for someone shy. I guess there is two sides to every coin. Double “like” the Thomas Wolfe passage.

    Comment by Lisa — July 23, 2016 @ 9:22 pm

  10. Thanks for writing it down and sharing.

    From someone who was at the Reunion, you told it like it was.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — July 23, 2016 @ 9:30 pm

  11. My eyes are tearing as I read this. I love family reunions. Living in the area I can appreciate the setting and the great food and fellowship. I hope next year the reunion is even bigger and better. Thanks for sharing…

    Comment by Linda Ault — July 24, 2016 @ 9:01 am

  12. “The walls of long ago can be torn down. The connections, the relationships will never be what they would have been. And they will never be what they should have been. But they can be something. It’s never too late to tear down a wall.”

    Ira, you have me literally bawling. I’m all for tearing down walls and there are so very many.

    Comment by Jonas Borntreger — July 24, 2016 @ 9:57 am

  13. So Lovely

    Comment by Gail Giavotella Posey — July 24, 2016 @ 10:15 am

  14. Loved the story. I grew up in Daviess. Did not get to know my grandpa. He lived in Topeka, Indiana.

    It’s sad that the religion that teaches to love our enemies, teaches us to NOT love our siblings if they leave our religion.

    I am a non-denominational Pastor and Chaplain of Midlothian, Texas. Twenty miles south of Dallas.

    May the love of God triumph over all walls!

    Comment by D. Ray Miller — July 24, 2016 @ 10:02 pm

  15. What a beautiful post about finding the family that was lost to you. So glad you went to the reunion. We were not very close to my father’s family when I was growing up and it was always like a part of me was missing. Parents don’t realize sometimes that their children are a part of both parents and need to know both halves. My family has never had family reunions, you are blessed that yours does.

    Comment by Rosanna F. — July 26, 2016 @ 1:15 pm

  16. “The walls of long ago can be torn down. The connections, the relationships will never be what they would have been. And they will never be what they should have been. But they can be something. It’s never too late to tear down a wall.”

    I love this paragraph. Restored relationships is one of the things I most look forward to about Jesus’ return and heaven. To have it occur in this life is truly God’s kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. So glad you got to experience this time of healing and joy here and now.

    Comment by Ava — July 27, 2016 @ 12:46 pm

  17. “Separate nations before
    and dividing walls were raised,
    but when the Cross was lifted up
    the walls were shattered — God be praised!”

    from “One Loaf, One Cup, One Body”

    Comment by Jay — July 27, 2016 @ 4:56 pm

  18. Ira, I love this post about your family gathering; the descriptions of your siblings and seeing pictures of you all sitting together, sharing stories and catching up on each other’s lives. The food appeared quite abundant and was delicious I am sure. Overall, I appreciate the spirit of love and forgiveness in which you wrote this event. Thank you for sharing with your readers. God bless you.

    Comment by Gigi Williams — July 27, 2016 @ 5:02 pm

  19. I’m thinking that sometimes walls are breached; but sometimes the water level (God’s increasing manifest Glory) lifts us up above our walls as our survival boats meet in a level, higher place, that overcomes a previous world.

    Comment by LeRoy — July 27, 2016 @ 5:49 pm

  20. Was checking every day till you posted this-great story!

    Comment by Phyllisitty — July 28, 2016 @ 9:47 am

  21. It took a simple smile, a short handshake to open the gates of welcome. No one had to say, “I’m sorry”, or stand aside,or be expelled or thought as nothing….welcome was in your heart, your eyes, your voice for these strangers, but welcome is a fleeting thing when others dare to “live their truth.”

    Comment by G racina — July 31, 2016 @ 10:37 pm

  22. Great food and visiting with relatives one hasn’t seen in a while..two thing’s almost guaranteed to bring people out of the wood work..just sayin’..peace to all..

    Comment by lenny — August 8, 2016 @ 12:26 pm

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