"Fake it 'til you make it," the old saying goes. With grief's heavy cloud still looming large overhead, we went forward with our previously planned family reunion. In some ways it felt wrong having a family reunion without Chad (especially since it had only been four weeks since he left us), but on the other hand, it didn't feel right not to. "The show must go on," they say in the theater. And Chad loved the theater. So we did our best to press forward.
There were many "fake it" moments over the four days we spent together, but there were many happy memories too.
Mom and Dad had rented a beautiful house in Sunriver, Oregon. We'd heard so many rave reviews about Sunriver and it would live up to the hype. Miles and miles of bike trails connect well kept vacation homes, golf courses, an aquatic center, shopping village and more. Our vacation home for the week had all the amenities.
The cousins shared this bedroom full of bunks:
There was plenty of room and comfortable accommodations for all.
Once we'd all arrived and got checked-in, the women left for Bend to get the groceries for the week. The kids began decorating bikes (that were provided by the owners) for the Fourth of July bike parade that would be taking place the following morning. Mom had gone crazy at the dollar store buying patriotic decorations. They were soon strewn from one end of the three car garage to the other.
Chad loved games. They always included some of his trademark trash talk. Though always light hearted and never mean, his boasting of how he was going to beat us all hinted at his love of winning, but was more likely intended to rile the rest of the family's competitive spirits. I wanted to make sure our reunion honored Chad with some fun games. I wanted them to be personalized for our family and include Chad in them wherever possible. I planned a game for each night we were together. After eating a taco dinner, we played our first game: Seely Bingo.
Everyone got a blank card and filled it in with family members' names. I used a gum ball machine Caleb had made at cub camp years ago and gum balls instead of a bingo ball cage. I wrote an initial on each gum ball to represent each member of the family.
We laughed as we compared answers and then played several rounds of bingo, complete with prizes.
The next morning, Independence Day, started with the bike parade. We watched the girls ride along a part of the route and then I joined in as it made it's way into the village.
We wandered the village, did some shopping, eating, holiday games and then headed back to the house.
Caleb and I gave the tandem bike a whirl:
Cousin time is the best time and the girls had a lot of fun together.
We had a classic 4th of July BBQ and the family game of the night was Yardzee. It was a little competitive and there may have been some gloating when Yardzees were scored, but mostly it was just fun.
We ended the night in Bend, where we watched a great fireworks show. Happy Birthday, America!
We knew we wanted to float the river while we were in town, but finding the right location proved to be challenging. We spent the morning of the 5th trying to find a place to rent tubes and provide a shuttle. We finally found the float that suited our needs and we had an enjoyable afternoon, even though the river was cold and slow and most of us ended up with fairly significant sunburns. Sadly, I don't have any photos to document our time on the river.
That night's game was Jeopardy. I played Alex Trebek and the rest of the family was divided into two teams. The funniest moment of the game was when Spencer's team got the year 2003 in the Life Milestones category. Neither he nor anyone else on his team could figure out that the milestone was the year of his and Erin's wedding. Erin gave several dramatic eye rolls, but waited patiently for her team to steal the points by answering correctly. Every family member was included at least once in the questions and I think some of us may have even learned something new about each other. Fun times!
Exploring the Lava River Cave was first on the following day's agenda. There were some steep stairs in the beginning and some uneven ground that caused Grandma, Grandpa and Amy to turn back. But the rest of us walked the mile and a half to the cave's end. I loved the experience. So cool!
We decided to try a hike next. It was supposed to be short and flat, but it was hot and a little longer than we anticipated. Not everyone loved it.
Pretty scenery, though.
Amy took this picture of me walking with Jon and remarked how seeing us together made her wish she could be walking side by side with her love, too.
Then it was time to cool off at the SHARC--the HOA aquatic center. Fun slides, pools and lazy river made for a nice afternoon.
It was Thursday. Four weeks to the day since Chad's graduation from mortality. Prior to the reunion, I found a place in the village to order balloons. We all wore our BYU shirts--since you can't properly honor Chad in any other way--and gathered to release the balloons.
Amy and I had picked them up that morning, but by afternoon, they were deflating. They had just enough helium left to carry them heavenward. We told Chad how much we missed him and then cried as we watched them float up into the sky.
This girl is remarkable. Her heart has been shattered and her world turned upside down, but grace and strength and undying faith are ever present. Chad is so very proud of her and lucky that she is his.
I wanted a memento that we could all share that would remind us of Chad and unite us in honoring him. I had necklaces made that were engraved with a "C" on a small silver disc and a fresh water pearl. We posed for this picture to show us all wearing our "Chad" necklaces.
After dinner we played our final family game; a few rousing rounds of the water game. I added the element of a cube, which when rolled, would require the person who'd been squirt to sing or dance or serve the crowd. Sometimes, when lucky, the roller would earn double the points for their team. It was a pretty wild time. Grandpa and Jon had to show their dance moves! Erin had to sing:
The next morning, we cleaned house, said our goodbyes and checked out. On our way out of town, we stopped at the village for one last treat and to wander for a bit.
It had been a great reunion. There were moments of grief, moments of tension, moments of wishing we could wake up from our bad dream; but mostly there were moments of joy and gratitude for time spent together.