Before I was blessed with children, I belonged to a group that gathered for game night several times throughout the year. The small group consisted of my mom and dad, a cousin and his wife and sometimes their daughter, an uncle and aunt and a family friend. I have fond memories of those nights. We gathered around a table and played domino games – Mexican or chicken. Depending on the size of the table, we would knock elbows with each other and have to hide our dominos so our very close neighbors didn’t discover our strategy. The company was great. Our family friend was a bachelor and made the best pies. My uncle brought his homemade wines. There were some good varieties and the questionable “Opposum Grape.” As we finished a few rounds and a couple of bottles, my uncle would begin singing the classics like the Beach Boys “Help Me Rhonda,” when he wasn’t doing so well in the game.
It’s been a long time since the group has gathered for game night. Life got busy. Children and grandchildren were born. People grew older. Sickness and death broke into our content lives. A few years ago, our family friend died of a rare brain infection. Less than two years ago, a few years after successfully receiving a liver transplant, my cousin lost his battle with cancer. His wife, a woman older than me that I affectionately called “Flower Girl” at my wedding, recently passed away from renal cancer.
If the remaining members of the group gathered today, there would be three empty chairs at the tables we used to crowd around. However, if we could look beyond our sorrow and lift up the veil of death, we would see a table in heaven where there are many seats. Some are occupied. I am blessed to know three new arrivals who sit at that table. Jimmy was the first. He was there for Bernie. And Bernie helped his wife make the journey home. At that table there is no sorrow, only laughter. No tears, only joy. God willing, we will all be together again one day.