Long before the road was built and the land was fully cleared, I made the walk across the grassy foot path to the grove as a little girl. No matter how long or short my visit there was? My cousin would make sure we fit in the time to go there. She would simply say “let me know when you want to go to see your daddy” then we would go about finishing whatever we were doing. We had been making this walk since I was ten years old, gathering on the grove, picking whatever flowers were blooming at the time to place on the lone grave of my 30-year-old Daddy.
Since those years of making that solemn walk, the grove has been filled with many more of my family, the people whom I have loved and cherished memories on into my adult life. The grove that started out being the place he picked to build a home, is now the resting place of those that have gone on. I made the journey there again this year for the annual Mills’ Memorial Service, gathering on the grove for the first time since my Mother was laid to rest there several years ago.
The grove has always been a peaceful place, even as a child. Now, as an adult, it remains the same filled with even more memories of those I love. Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, and Cousins, it will always be a bittersweet place to visit. It had been too long since this last trip.
The gathering this year was much more needed for me, maybe because I am older, maybe because it has always been the place that I felt “home.” Surrounded by cousins, too many to count and two of my Daddy’s last surviving siblings, (one of which led me to believe she couldn’t make it.. only to surprise me when I got there!) I needed to feel connected to my beginnings, the place I came from.
I can’t tell you which part of this journey to the grove made the most impact. I was able to attend the church service that began from my Uncle’s pulpit, listen to my family sing hymns and play music and be a part of testimony after testimony of how God had been faithful. Gathering with those that are and were a part of my tapestry, was a feeling of unconditional love that is not often a part of our ordinary daily lives. We were there, together, to enjoy every part of family, catching up with one another and meeting those that had been added to our circle of love.
There were many times that my heart ran overfilled during this visit. I watched my daughter enjoy cousin time, like I was afforded growing up, I don’t think she realized until this particular visit how large her family was on my side, for this I was especially grateful.
I watched my cousin, who is more like a sister, open up her home and welcome everyone that came by regardless of their “kinship” in our family. She will never know how much love I felt in her presence. (yes, I know this is a goofy picture of us…but this has always been US!)
I found myself stealing away by myself with tears, being thankful that I was able to be there this year. I don’t even think my husband realized how much I adored him for jumping through hoops to get me there this year – thank you for melting my heart- one of my love moments with you.
I don’t know how often I will make it to the grove in the years to come? Probably not as often as I will wish, but when I do? I will cherish the time, count the blessings, and never take it for granted. Although there were sad goodbyes, I left with my heart overflowing, knowing that the miles between us will always be too many, but the distance between our hearts will always be less. No matter how many years pass from gathering on the grove, it will always seem like yesterday when we pick up where we left off…just as it always has – that is what makes it so special. For this time, I can say that “my cup runneth over” and I look forward to my next “Gathering on the Grove.”
To all of my family… near and far – thank you for making this such a special place in my heart.