The Importance of Visiting

I had a delightful phone conversation with my eldest daughter, Aubree, the other day. She had called earlier in the week and gave us the happy news that she is expecting her first child. This 2nd phone call was the first opportunity I had to talk with her alone about it all.

Aubree’s journey to this milestone has been a long and difficult one. Her righteous desire has always been to have a family of her own. But for more than a decade she dealt with disappointment as one obstacle or another stood in her way. This past year she married and, to no one’s surprise, the great news came by phone this week.

Our joy for her is complete because we have been close to her struggle. So it was just a great thing to share a few minutes with her on the phone reacting, laughing, wondering about the next several months and playing what-if when it comes to things like this baby’s gender, the possibility of twins, and, of course, just “who is this little being growing within me?”.

I want to share two parts of this conversation with Aubree. First is our discussion of possible baby names. Aubree is the kind of girl who has named her babies since she was a little girl. I’m positive she has quite a catalog of possibilities. But I was delighted to hear her rattle off some names under consideration with her husband, Ryan, that come from both sides of the family.

We discussed many of the name possibilities and the significance of remembering and honoring generations past in the families. I was delighted to hear not only names from Ryan’s family but also from my mother’s family, my father’s family, my in-laws families. In fact, if we were to somehow grade this conversation Aubree would have earned an A+ for her knowledge of beloved names from family history.

Frankly, I never knew she was listening. But not only did she know the names, she knew many of the stories as well.

As I contemplated that I came to some conclusions. First, Aubree’s mother and Aubree’s grandmother have been HUGE influences on Aubree’s knowledge of family members. Over the years as they have shared stories and tears centered on precious family members these have grown precious to Aubree, especially now as she considers a new child.

Second, it dawned on me that Aubree herself is not only an “old soul”, as I like to sometimes call her, she also long ago mastered the art of “visiting”.

“Visiting” is what happens when large family gatherings settle down from whatever brought them together. Whether it is a holiday or a funeral or whatever — when the main event is over there are two things you can count on: food, and “visiting”.

For many of the younger members of the family this is a cue to exit to play with the cousins. And there is great value in that time too. But for me when I was a kid — and I noticed this with Aubree as well — hanging out for the visiting was where it was at.

As a child, you’re not much of an active participant as a visitor. At least I always felt that way. There was no way I could keep up with the banter. But there were a number of things I enjoyed about it. I loved the storytelling. I loved the laughter.

I especially loved the way it made me see other people. I can recall a time when visiting was going on when my mother called her father “Dad”. It was a simple thing. I was quite young but I connected the dots in that moment to realize Mom had a Dad. Sounds dumb, but all kinds of lights go on when “visiting” happens.

I remember really enjoying my Grandma when visiting would happen because it caused her to rise above her Grandma-ness to me. In that context, she was not only Grandma but also sister or mother or wife or daughter — depending upon the context of the stories being told. Visiting was an expansive experience. It caused relationships to expand and perceptions to refine because visiting changed facts and shook foundations.

It was always good, too.

For example, when I was little I had not spent much time around my uncle Darrell. In fact, I can recall being a bit scared of him as a 5 year old. Years later, when my little sister was just a baby, I saw Uncle Darrell as we were visiting after a wedding. He was holding my little sister on his lap when a little love affair broke out between the two of them. She grabbed his heart and shed a whole new light on my Uncle Darrell, to me. He smiled, he laughed, he told stories as he visited and listened.

Aubree has always been a great visitor. And she has always connected well with older members of the family. How very grateful I am for that as a new generation is about to join us.

Now, the other thing I wanted to share about this conversation with Aubree has to do with my mother.

Mom will have been gone three years come this next April. I have only felt closer to her since that time.

In fact, with every holiday like Christmas this past week I think of Mom and that usually results in dreams about her. I had one dream of her on Christmas this year that was so significant that I told my wife about it.

Nevertheless, I was surprised to hear Aubree tell me over the phone of a dream she had of my mother this week, too — a dream very similar to mine in terms of how mother looked and how happy she appeared to be — but it was a dream for Aubree that was much more specific.

Mother told Aubree in her dream how much she loved her and how happy and proud she was of her. She seemed to be aware of the changes in Aubree’s life this past year.

Mom was always aware of Aubree’s struggles. I know Mom and Aubree talked about the situation from time to time when “visiting”. But I too would confide in my Mom as I shared with her the parental pain and challenge of Aubree’s struggle and how we could help her. Mom knew.

So there is no doubt in my mind that Mom knows probably more about this situation now than we realize. It is entirely within the realm of possibility, in my mind at least, that Mom knows this new great-grandchild, too. I’m not sure how doctrinally sound that is but I’m convinced those family connections flow both ways, past and future.

In any case, it’s thrilling. To know there is a new child coming to the family, another in a new generation, gives me even more context in family history work. Knowing our past and appreciating them goes a long, long way I think in helping these new little strangers who join us.

They are part of all of us.

I cannot wait to meet this child. I cannot wait to be one this child hears speaking when it comes time to visit. I am anxious to do my part and share what a wonderful heritage it is we have together — on every side.

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