Our annual Coffman Family Reunion always occurs (I mean always...the world stops for this) on the first weekend of August. This is the family on my mom's 'side.' There are typically 90-100 in attendance.....all decendants of Sylvester and Jessie Coffman, my grandparents. The reunion is located on the family homeplace (in Northeast Missouri) where we've built a shelter house near the site of my grandparents home, which has since been torn down. My grandparents died several years ago, so those in attendance are the children of Sylvester and Jessie Coffman...there are four daughters remaining out of 12 children....the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. Family members travel from Arizona, Kansas, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota,Tennessee, Georgia, Hawaii, and of course, Missouri. Mom and I were preparing to leave for the reunion when we got the call.
We received word that my cousin Shirley's husband had been killed in a tragic work accident (an explosion at a paper mill). Steve was a wonderful guy....a devoted husband, brother, uncle, and friend. He loved to come to Missouri for the family reunions. He and Shirley were looking forward to making the trip to the Coffman reunion last weekend. We were looking forward to seeing Steve and Shirley. Now Steve is gone. Such a tragic loss.
So, instead of going to Missouri, Mom and I made the trip to Tomahawk, Wisconsin for the funeral. The decision was made to cancel the family reunion in Missouri....out if respect for Shirley, but also to allow us to be with our family members in Wisconsin. I was asked to sing at the funeral. I am asked to sing at most of the family funerals. It is hard to do, but somehow the Lord gets me through it. My uncle (a United Methodist pastor) spoke of Steve very eloquently. I have never seen so many people at a funeral. I also think that at least 1000 people came for the visitation. A tent was erected outside of the church because there were too many flowers for the inside of the church. There was a TV-feed to the basement of the church for the overflow. A news helicopter from one of the TV stations hovered overhead. This story made the national news and the TV stations have hounded Shirley for an interview....can you imagine?
It was a different kind of family reunion....not the kind I look forward to.....but, I am so fortunate to be in such a loving and close family. I look forward to taking Caroline to Wisconsin (for happier occasions, I hope!) and to Missouri to meet her aunts, uncles, and cousins.....many, many cousins. I love it.