When Aunt Hazel Prayed
Just thinking…maybe it’s being in the midst of winter that makes my mind shift to summer and family reunions. Family reunions happened at our house every year during my childhood. Many relatives lived within a short ride from our house but I had aunts, uncles, and cousins who also came from Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.
I remember those reunions as being such happy times. It was often the only time that my grandmother who lived next to us saw some of her brothers and her sister. They usually all came if they could possibly make it to this summer pilgrimage of going “back home”. Many of the men were railroad workers that had started out around the little town of Baring, Mo.
Those who came from a distance to the reunion stayed with us or other relatives who lived nearby. Nobody stayed in hotels but instead children gave up their beds to the adults and all kinds of cots and pallets were brought out for sleeping. For us children, we loved it because it was a great adventure. It was the only time I got to do exciting things like sleeping on two chairs pushed together or sometimes we asked our parents if we could sleep outside on the porch. What an adventure to get to sleep on concrete!
Family reunions were a special time when the family enjoyed being together to visit and catch up on all the news from each other. There were new babies, kids graduating, marriages, and yes, the loss of some family members whose lives here on earth had ended. The adults all talked and the children played tag and baseball.
The food at the reunions was the best of all. Tables were pushed together and leaves were added to hold mountains of food. The food all came from our gardens and farms. We were organic before we ever heard of the word. The kitchen was busy as dishes of roast beef, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and roastin’ ears (corn on the cob) was carried out and added to the long table and another small table had gallons of tea and water to drink. There were desserts too, with a variety of homemade pies and cakes.
Finally, we were called to dinner and everyone stood around the table as the men removed their hats and everyone bowed their heads. That was when the most important thing happened … that was when Aunt Hazel prayed. I loved to hear her pray. As a child I thought she talked straight to God just like He was standing in the room with us. It would suddenly get very quiet all except for Aunt Hazel’s trembling voice that sounded different as if she was laughing, crying, and praising God all at the same time. She didn’t just thank him for the food but she also thanked God for this family that we all loved, and she prayed for all of us. Even the babies seemed to listen while Aunt Hazel prayed and there was a holy hush in the room for a few moments after the “Amen”.
As an adult I often think back on those hot summer days when the reunion was at our house. It was the best of times. I know now and realize that the reason that I thought Aunt Hazel was talking straight to God was because she was doing exactly that. I’m not sure Aunt Hazel knew the rest of us were in the room at the time. After all, who can stand before Almighty God and not be moved to tears, laughter, and praise? I can still hear the sound of Aunt Hazel’s voice in my mind although she left this earth many years ago. It was the sound of love when Aunt Hazel prayed.
By Pamela Perry Blaine