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We recently returned from a trip to the Midwest to visit my husband’s family for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was the first time his entire family was able to be together in several years because, as is typical of most American families these days, they are spread out in different areas of the country. This was a particularly meaningful trip, not just because everyone was together, but because my father in law is dealing with a recurring bout of cancer which is always a concern and full of unknowns.

I always enjoy being with my husband’s family. They are kind people and they have made me one of them. It amazes me the way, despite their differences, they are able to come together and love one another and enjoy each other without drama and without tension. It speaks to the love and respect they have for one another that runs deeper than any petty grievances they may have sometimes experienced in the past.

The time together, this visit especially, was filled with a quiet but pervasive sense of gratitude for the precious limits of time. There was a joy to this visit that was silently accompanied by an unspoken understanding that these gatherings are to be treasured because they are few and far between and no one knows how many more there might be. Not a moment was taken for granted as laughter filled the air.

Visits like these, ones filled with the ease of uncomplicated connection, are cherished times because there is an implied understanding that they do not come often enough and the realities of time and distance create gaps and holes that would otherwise not be there, as nieces, nephews and grandchildren grow into adulthood in the blink of an eye.

The heartache that the distance creates is certainly palpable when these gatherings come to a close. The goodbyes linger. The laughter halts. The cars get packed and the traveling begins again. But, the love of this family far outweighs any physical distance that separates them, as the bonds are unbreakable. Though it generally remains unspoken, the love these people have for one another is fierce, abiding and despite the heartache of distance, these bonds will always withstand the tests of time…no matter what happens next and until we meet again.