Family Reunion


Hi, friends! Today, I have to tell you a crazy story. The story began with our friends, both now deceased, that we met in 2006. Their names were Beverly and Joe Blackburn. We met them through a bible study at our church in Duncansville. We hit it off immediately, despite being generations apart. We invited them to our wedding, had dinner and chatted during evenings in the winter at their house, tried the sweetest wine we've ever had (and politely made our way through!): Peach Manischewitz once when we had them to our house for a dinner of pistachio-encrusted salmon.

Beverly and Joe knew so many people. One of the most interesting things about our friendship with them is how they managed to find a connection to nearly everyone new that they met. We figured out that Beverly's mother knew Brady's paternal grandmother's mother long ago. We also heard stories of them taking a train trip across the country and finding out that they were connected to someone they met along the way. It was a neat adventure for us just to hear these stories from them!

Photo taken by Annie-Hannah Mancini in 2007

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They were one of our earliest guests when we brought our first son home from the hospital. They were the ages that our grandparents would be.

As Jonathan grew, Joe used to tell Brady that he would have to build a fence to keep that wild little boy contained. I can still hear Bev's voice saying, "Oh, Ann!" at the beginning of a story she was about to tell. It was a unique friendship and one that we'll always treasure. 

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About six months after Jonathan's birth, Joe went unconscious in his sleep and died a few days later in the hospital. We had the chance to go in; let him know how much we treasured him, and say good-bye. We invited Beverly to our Christmas celebration that year with our family, as they had no children of their own and checked in on her now and again, visiting and going out to dinner together. She came to Jonathan's second birthday party and was the first to arrive. She missed her husband so much, but she persevered. I know she was lonely and never the same again, but she still laughed with us, though sometimes with misty eyes the whole time.

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When we welcomed our second son, Christopher, into the world, Beverly held him in her arms and loved him. Our boys called her "Grandma Bev" and loved her right back. Soon after, we learned that she had advanced cancer when she went in for a more simple outpatient procedure. My heart was sad for her to be alone in this process. She relied on help from neighbors and friends and an occasional visit from hospice to navigate dying at home. I felt tied down in having a tiny baby to nurse and care for constantly, but we visited and brought food. I remember how cold and tired she was on our last visits, but how much she wanted to be welcomed home into heaven and see her husband, Joe, and her Lord and Savior. I remember helping her into her bed when we left early one November evening. I tucked her covers around her and kissed her forehead. We walked out that night never to see her again on this earth, for she died the next evening, and have missed her so much in that time.

Fast forward 4 years. A few weeks ago, I received this letter in the mail addressed to to my husband. I thought it might be an ironic mistake that we actually knew some Blackburns and also accidentally got invited to a reunion of a family with the same name. "How interesting!" I thought.

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When Brady got home from work, I showed him. Curious, he logged on to the Blackburn Family database and typed in his name. It could show you how you are a Blackburn or related to a Blackburn family member. It was real. It wasn't a mistake. Brady's family is indeed part of the Blackburn family and actually not that distantly!

Jesse Shaffer and Joseph Blackburn shared a great grandmother. In other words, Jesse's grandfather (John Henry Shaffer) had a sister named Emma Shaffer. She married George Washington Blackburn. Joe was their grandchild. Jesse Shaffer went on to have a son named Jack Shaffer who had a daughter, Rachel Shaffer, who had a son, Brady Bickel (my husband)

WHAT! Yes. Our once-in-a-lifetime multiple-generation friendship with Beverly and Joe just got more interesting because we were distant cousins all along. I wonder if that's why our special friendship formed. Is this why we were instant friends? They would certainly love the idea, but I don't know how surprised they would be since they found connections with nearly everyone they met.

I wished I could tell Bev and Joe, but then again, they probably already know. 

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to read on, check out last week's post titled Brothers. Like what you read? Leave some love or ask questions in the comments below. You can log in through Google Plus, Facebook, or Smug Mug!

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