I can't approach Thanksgiving without thanking God for family. Mine is not exactly the traditional family; I was child number five - a surprise to everyone but my mother, I was told. She said she wanted a baby to get her out of her church work. That didn't work out so well for her.
The Springer children span 20 years, oldest to youngest. Sister, brother, sister, sister, me. The first three: Burneta, Gerald and Marcella were a team, growing up together. It was eight years before sister Marlene joined the trio. She was the baby for 10 years before I finally came along and spoiled that arrangement.
Brother Gerald was and always will be the special one. He was the only boy. He had a delightful, fun-loving personality, and he died too young, suddenly at age 19, when I was only one. Our family can be defined by brother Gerald: before and after Gerald. Hearts remain broken even after all these years.
My heartbreak is in not getting to love him or to make my own memories with him. My sisters' grief runs far deeper, I'm sure. All that I know about brother Gerald is from others' memories. I hardly know enough to share. He was an athlete and a farm boy involved in 4-H showing calves and pigs at the fairs. He was quite a teaser and a bit ornery, I'd guess. He worked construction and went to college at William Penn. He fell in love, married and had a baby son. Then his life came abruptly to an end, crushing hearts and dreams for a future that never had the chance to become reality. Our family's lives were forever changed.
This isn't what I planned to write about today; that's the way it goes sometimes. When I think of family I'm drawn to those who are missing now: Gerald, Mama and Daddy. One blessing is that I believe they are reunited now. I'm so thankful for family, past and present. I thank God for the blessings of sisterhood and for brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews. I'm thankful for memories and cherished moments of togetherness.
"I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord" (Psalm 104:33-34 NIV).