Family Reunion - the words conjure up a variety of images for different people, sometimes positive and sometimes not. This past Sunday a few dozen members of the Gray family gathered in Wheeling, WVa to celebrate the 90th birthday of my Aunt Irene. We came together from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Ohio, and West Virginia. There were relatives that I had not seen in more than 25 years, but we all share a common heritage.
My dad is the youngest of the nine children of Chester and Katherine Gray, of Cameron, WVa. My Aunt Rene is the oldest of the five remaining siblings. She is a gentle woman who has known more than her share of pain; she has buried 2 of her sons and 2 husbands, 2 brothers and 2 sisters. My grandmother and my great-grandmother spent the last years of their lives in her care. She delights in her family and it was good to be able to gather together and celebrate with her.
My parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on June 9th. My sisters and I took advantage of the gathering of family and friends to surprise them with a reception Saturday evening. We were somehow able to plan by email (from Tx, OK, and New Hampshire) and pull off a complete surprise with the help of my cousin Jan (Aunt Rene's daughter) and Wheeling friend Carol Thomas. My parents may be the best exemplars of lives of service that I have known. Even though they have been gone from Wheeling for more than 20 years, the number of people who remembered them and came to the reception was gratifying, and was indicative of the example they lived. I am fortunate to have them as my parents.