IMG_8055IMG_8058Every year, my mom’s family gets together to celebrate Christmas as a family. Of course, it isn’t on Christmas, but rather a couple of weeks ahead of Christmas. They get together to stay close to each other and to honor their parents’ wishes that they not drift apart. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer, like her sisters looked forward to that party every year. She planned the little gift that she would make for each of her sisters. She worked on them with great care, planning every detail, so they were just perfect for each of her siblings. There was always that special moment when the siblings would gather at one of the tables and exchange those precious little gifts that showed how much they loved each other. It was always such a sweet thing to watch. It was never about the gift they received, but about the love they all had for each other. I felt a sting of sadness, because Mom and Aunt Evelyn weren’t there at that precious moment of sisterly love. Nevertheless, I was happy for Aunt Virginia Beadle, IMG_8047IMG_8060Aunt Bonnie McDaniels, Aunt Dixie Richards, and Aunt Sandy Pattan, because they still had that precious time together.

As the years have passed, fewer and fewer of the siblings remain, and this year, we lost two more of the sisters, my mom and my aunt, Evelyn Byer Hushman. Everyone felt the sting of those new absences, and my aunts tried to console us and we them too, but it really didn’t do much good. We simply cried together, because we missed them so much. Sometimes, when we are caught up in our own grief, we can forget that there are others who loved our loved one too. I somehow hadn’t grasped that thought before, but while talking to my aunts, I realized that they are grieving as much as we are. These were their sisters, who they had known all of their lives, and they missed them too…very much.

IMG_8052IMG_8068This Byer Family Christmas Party was different in several ways, but it was also the same in many ways too. The same people that usually come, were mostly there this time too. These are the family members who have embraced Grandma and Grandpa’s dream of a continuing close family. These are the ones who have strived to keep the future generations of the family close too. We have a wonderful heritage in our family. Our grandparents left us a legacy of love. Those connections warm our hearts with every party or picnic. We are all busy, and seeing each other every day…other than on Facebook…is very hard to do, but these precious family gatherings will always keep the legacy of our grandparents alive.

As I walked around the room, talking to the different family members and taking too many pictures to possible show here, I could hear the echoes of those aunts and uncles who are in Heaven this year…Aunt Evelyn IMG_8056IMG_8048Hushman, Uncle Elmer and Aunt Deloris Johnson, Uncle Larry Byer, my mom and dad, Collene and Allen Spencer, and Uncle Jack McDaniels…and of course of Grandma and Grandpa Byer. It was as if they were there in spirit, celebrating the family with us. I could hear some of the things each one had said over the years. I was thankful that many of their family members were there at the party, because even though they are in Heaven now, we are all still part of this wonderful family, and we belong together celebrating this family and the legacy our precious grandparents left behind.

Rockin' Out at The Shooting RangeMy niece, Jenny and her husband, Steve like to go to the shooting range and shoot their guns with their boys, Xander, Zack, and Isaac. Jenny and Steve also have a little daughter, Aleesia, who is still a baby. Obviously, Aleesia is too young to shoot a gun, but that doesn’t mean she can’t go along to watch the action. Aleesia doesn’t like being left out of the action. In fact, she thinks that everything they do is interesting. She loves watching her brothers, and all their activities. And they love making her smile, so leaving her out of this activity just wouldn’t be fair.

A couple of days ago, Aleesia got her first chance to go to the shooting range with her family. Of course, Jenny and Steve take all the normal precautions to protect their children, including earmuffs to protect their hearing. Aleesia is big enough now to wear the earmuffs, but they are very big on her. They remind me of the old style headphones, and Aleesia, being the happy baby that she is didn’t mind the earmuffs at all. In fact, she thought they were pretty cool!!

I’m sure that for Aleesia, everything sounded very different, and even funny. Because if the muffled noises sound to her like they do to me, it is pretty funny. It kind of sounds like echoes, and who knows what it would sound like to a baby…maybe music. I suppose it could be, and maybe that is what was making her so happy, or maybe she just thought everything sounded weird, so she was smiling. Another possibility is that she just thought it was a funny hat. She is used to headbands, and really likes the way they make her feel girly. And feeling girly in the middle of a shooting range might be difficult for a girly girl.

I know that Aleesia will grow up knowing how to shoot, and how to be safe at it. Her Steve shootingmommy and daddy will make sure of that. It’s something they plan to pass down to all of their children. They will know how to handle all sorts of guns, and they will know that every single life is valuable and precious. I am very proud of what Jenny and Steve are teaching the kids. They are great parents.

As to Aleesia, I’m sure everyone will have their own opinion on just what she was thinking. My personal opinion is that she thought everything she was hearing sounded just like music…or maybe a drum beat. As for me…I think she liked the way it all sounded, and she was just rockin’ out at the shooting range.

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