Funerals Should not be Family Reunions

By Kelly Harris, Editor 

My uncle died in March. The next day my phone rang with calls from my cousins and other relatives I hadn’t spoken with or seen in years.  I hadn’t seen many of the since my wedding in 2008.

My father’s side of the family hasn’t had a reunion since the early 90s. When someone dies in the family, the chain of calls can seem like an event where everyone starts calling to RSVP.

Two days before my uncle Joe’s funeral, a message on my voicemail said:

“Are you coming to the funeral? Man, I haven’t seen you in so long. Remember when we use to play at grandma’s house and get yelled at for leaning on the banister? It would be good to see all the cousins again.”


I thought, “This is sad. Why do I only see my relatives at funerals?” Clearly we know how to contact each other, but we rarely do unless it’s to bury a loved one.

I’ve been saying for years I would take the initiative to organize a reunion. My grandparents, rest their souls, would be appalled to know that we haven’t had a reunion in more than 20 years.

I’m guilty of not keeping up with my family like I should.

I’ve been absorbed in marriage, motherhood, work, writing—life, ya know?  Sometimes, it’s a lack of time. Other moments, I just don’t want to give my time to certain family members that can be draining.  Maybe I’m draining to them and that’s why they don’t call me more often.

Either way, it’s not an excuse for not staying better connected. Yes, social media provides random updates, but it doesn’t replace human contact.

My grandmother’s kitchen was the place was where we debated, got lectured, where we gossiped and heard stories of family folklore. Today, it seems like good times don’t happen with the same ease that I remember.

I don’t want my family experiences to be exactly the same as when I was growing up, but I do wish we gathered more for fun and not just at funerals.

I hope before we bury another loved one, my family can find ways to look at each other with all eyes open.

Does your family gather outside of funerals?