The “Byler Bash” is how my biological family describes our biennial gatherings that take place the third weekend of July at a mountain retreat in central Pennsylvania. Like any reunion, we eat together and spend time catching up on all the many happenings in our busy lives. Since we live in different parts of the state and country it usually isn’t possible for every family member to attend, but we enjoy the company of everyone who does show up.
In recent years the senior members of our clan, the sons of Tom and Ada Byler, have been shrinking in number. This weekend my dad, who passed away last November, was fondly remembered, and his older brother wasn’t well enough to make the trip. That left one remaining brother and two daughters-in-law to represent the second generation (another aunt was unable to attend).
As I reflect on why these reunions have become so important to me I continue to be drawn to one word “heritage.” Every family has traditions—ours is good food and even better singing. We always spend some part of the weekend raising our voices in a-cappella, four-part harmony. The men usually share a few choral numbers especially written for male voices as well. It’s a special part of our heritage.
This weekend we also took some dedicated time to share family stories with each other. It didn’t take long for the room to buzz with conversation featuring memories of grandpa and grandma, uncles and aunts, and time spent with cousins while growing up. One story recalled how generous our grandfather was when selling corn or hay (it was always the best of his inventory) and how his baskets of apples always overflowed. These insights also contribute to the heritage our family enjoys.
Many times throughout the weekend laughter permeated the rooms of our lodge as we recalled humorous moments from the past or enjoyed new ones from the current conversations. I also observed more intimate exchanges that reflect how much we care for each other and long to deepen those relationships. It was an unexpected joy to watch third and fourth generation family members (some of them quite young) being introduced for the first time and soon happily visiting or playing together.
As one of many leaders in this clan, I am committed to keeping this family heritage vibrant and meaningful. That may mean sacrificing some personal time to plan the logistics of a future gathering. It will require booking time on my own busy professional and personal calendar to attend the next reunion. Mostly it will involve sharing this family’s stories and memories with the younger generation. It’s a labor of love that I’m only too happy to fulfill.
If you are reading this post, and enjoy your own family reunions, please share your heritage memories. As I am more aware each time my family gathers, our time is limited to leave a legacy that others will want to carry on.