photo-1468577760773-139c2f1c335fSometimes reconciliation looks like sitting together around collapsible plastic tables in the fellowship hall of a funeral parlor.

After the church hymns. After memories of light-as-a-feather yeast rolls and family dinners are shared at the microphone. After the grave site visit under a parched summer sky that makes me want to melt.

After all that, we go back for the luncheon. And I talk to my cousins for the first time since 1997. When my grandfather died. Now it is my grandmother who has died and nineteen years have passed.

A lot has happened.

***

Families are complicated, aren’t they? Maybe yours is too? Sometimes it is easiest to shed the influence of our family of origin altogether. Sometimes, there are negative influences we should shed. Perhaps abuse issues we have to stand up against? Perhaps there are controlling people we must confront? Perhaps we need time away to heal?

In my extended family, dysfunction, hurt and bitterness run wild, like an overgrown weed. I come from generations of alcohol abuse, backstabbers, and broken promises. There is no need to recount the specifics, but needless to say, there was much that was damaged. Much that has been lost.

It is an ancient cycle as old as Cain’s envy of Able. As old as the rivalry between Jacob and Esau. As old as the jealousy of Jacob’s sons over his love for Joseph. It is a tired story.

***

People grew up in hard times back then and sometimes hard times makes for hard people. But despite that, there was sweet alongside the bitter. Much of my own personal memories are shaped by the sweet.

As I sit on the hard wooden pew of the Baptist church, I remember summer weeks spent at my grandparents’ house when I stayed up too late watching Nick at Nite. Spoonfuls of my grandmother’s cool and creamy banana pudding, luscious to the last lick. The cookie jar always full. Countless sweaty summers “doing corn” and “doing beans” which meant a week of shucking, snapping, blanching, and freezing. Strawberry freezer jam smeared over toast. Just one taste of jam pulled from the freezer—still icy and I think of her. Food was the way she showed us her love. And I was loved with plates heaped with mashed potatoes and gravy.

***

And so we celebrate my grandmother’s life over plates of food and that seems appropriate. With Styrofoam cups of coffee and plastic utensils. I see my cousins’ children for the first time and meet their spouses. The quarrel was never between us and none of us want to keep it going. We seek to drop the burden of carrying it.

Perhaps it’s never too late to bind up old wounds. To start the work of healing them. To not let past generations of bitterness become our own. There will still be scars, but maybe that’s okay too.

My cousins send “friend” requests to me through Facebook.

It’s a small start in the right direction.

And I’ll make strawberry jam.

hospitality

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Danielle Jones
Danielle Jones / Posts / Blog
Danielle Ayers Jones is a storyteller. Whether it’s with paper and pen or behind the lens, it’s one of the things she loves to do best. She combines her love of writing and photography on her blog, danielleayersjones.com. It’s a space where she seeks to find creativity in the everyday, joy in hardship, and encouragement in unexpected places. She's has written for iBelieve.com, Ungrind.org and FortheFamily.org. Danielle is wife to an amazing husband and mother to four.
  • Susan
    http://www.susanmulder.com

    This touched my heart this morning-thanks so much for a lovely post!

    October 28th, 2016 8:50
    Reply
    01
  • Katie

    Oh, the breathtaking beauty of redemption and reconciliation!!
    Want to share a line from my DaySpring “Every Good Thing” perpetual calendar:
    Peace is seeing a sunset and knowing Who to thank.
    Gratefully,
    Katie

    October 28th, 2016 9:31
    Reply
    03
  • Rebecca
    http://abundancehouse.blogspot.com/

    “It is an ancient cycle as old as Cain’s envy of Able. As old as the rivalry between Jacob and Esau. As old as the jealousy of Jacob’s sons over his love for Joseph. It is a tired story.”

    These words. They reached out and grabbed at me as they so perfectly describe my husband’s family situation. “An ancient cycle—a tired story.” It is indeed a tired story full of generations wearied by bitterness and strife. Praising God with you for those first steps of Facebook friend requests.

    October 28th, 2016 10:44
    Reply
    04
    • Danielle Jones
      Danielle Jones
      http://www.danielleayersjones.com

      It can be a never-ending cycle, can’t it. In some ways that’s easier.

      October 28th, 2016 11:25
      Reply
      05
  • SimplyDarlene
    SimplyDarlene
    http://www.simplydarlene.com

    Family reconciliation is so very hard. Thanks for this glimpse of hope.

    Blessings.

    October 28th, 2016 11:03
    Reply
    06
  • Theresa
    http://www.theresaboedeker.com/

    Families can be so messy, but you need to keep trying. Funerals do that to us, make us want to try again. Hope this time goes better for you all.

    October 28th, 2016 21:25
    Reply
    08
  • Leah Adams
    http://www.leahadams.org

    Danielle, until 2 years ago I would not have been able to relate to your post, but now, it is as if you are describing my family. Your words are rich and full and beautiful. They speak into my heart and remind me that there is healing. There are so many lines and phrases that touch my heart, but I think I love this one most of all: ‘Food was the way she showed us her love. And I was loved with plates heaped with mashed potatoes and gravy.’ What a beautiful way to be remembered. Food does so much more than fill the tummy, doesn’t it! Thank you for this post.

    October 29th, 2016 5:06
    Reply
    09
  • Sharon A Gibbs
    Sharon A Gibbs
    http://sharonagibbs.com

    Life comes with those seasons of eating with plastic forks and spoons, and balancing styrofoam cups on flimsy tables. You remind me that a softening can occur, even in the messiness of the spills. xo

    October 29th, 2016 8:42
    Reply
    10

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