Earlier in November, I had the blessing to spend a week with my (almost) entire extended family. My cousin was getting married in Orlando, so my far-flung family all traveled to Florida for the wedding, and to spend a week together in a rented house.
While I have plenty of family that live mere miles from me, I also have family who live across oceans. And I have family that is in the military, often deployed or in training, scattered around the States and the world.
This time together was special.
When I got home and back to work, a co-worker asked me over lunch what my favourite thing that I saw in Florida was. I was slightly taken aback. I explained that it wasn’t a sight-seeing trip so much as time to be together as family. And then I couldn’t stop thinking about the things I saw that might be my favourite.
My first thought went to my littlest cousin. We shared a bathroom that joined our two rooms. On our final night together, as we both prepared to go to bed, he performed an entire improv slapstick routine for me as I sat in bed, fresh from my shower. I was falling over in bed from laughing so hard. That’s my little cousin – always game for a laugh and for being the fool.
Then I thought about playing in the pool with one of my older cousins. He and I were trying to play a game of volleyball…pathetically, poorly. We laughed a lot and chastised ourselves endlessly.
Or perhaps it was when my younger girl cousin and I sat outside of Starbucks at Universal Studios sharing tater tots and talking about how crabby everyone was. It seemed that we were all only talking to one other person in our group of 12, and she was my person (a long day at an amusement park with 12 people will do that to you).
There was sitting next to my uncle at the wedding as we swapped food with one another from our plates.
Or my cousin and I dancing to Spice Girls on the dance floor. Or maybe it was my mum being so enchanted by the Small World ride at Disneyworld. Perhaps it was when my cousin who I hadn’t seen in 13 years burst into a huge smile when he saw me, wrapping me in a hug with a “hello sweetheart” whispered in my ear.
Maybe it was slow and easy mornings eating cereal next to my littlest cousin as he drew and played games on his phone. Perhaps it was sitting around the hot tub, steam rising, and just chatting – all of us, family. Or it could have been the way that the trip was bookended by giant bear hugs from my littlest cousin as he scooped me up without hesitation, letting little 5’1″ me wrap my arms and legs around all 6’3″ of him.
All of these memories whirred through me as I pondered my co-worker’s question. What was the best thing that I saw in Florida? I’m not sure. But the best thing that I felt was love and joy. I live for these moments. Relationship means more to me than sightseeing or big experiences. I went to Florida not so that I could report back, telling stories, seeming worldly (is Florida worldly? No.), boosting my ego…I went to Florida to be wrapped with love and joy. I’m sure that I saw a lot. But feelings matter more than what we can see. I know that when I die, it will not be the things that I saw that will wrap me with warmth as I pass. It will be the relationships, the laughter, the feelings of joy and love. These are the priorities in my life. What are yours?