It’s a trip I’ve only made once. And it’s a long one. Don’t get me wrong, I love a long car ride through beautiful landscaping just as much as the next dog. But five hours one-way? I would say that quantifies a long journey. I figured with a journey that long, the destination would have to be something special. And it did not disappoint.
Phillips, Wisconsin. From the ground up, it is indeed a pretty special place. I visited there a few years ago when my forever mom and dad brought me along on their anniversary trip to a cabin in the woods. Beyond the colorful surroundings of mature trees shedding their leaves, there is a distinctly homey woody scent in the air my nose captured about a mile outside of town. But all of that was nothing next to the history this place has for my forever mom especially.
It’s where her dear grandpa grew up. Where her mom spent summers as a child. And where she and her family visited throughout her childhood and young adulthood. Though mom’s grandpa went to heaven years ago, family remains steadfast in that neck of the woods all those hours away.
I know family means different things to different people. I also know some people don’t consider what some might think of as distantly related relatives family. That is and never has been the case with the folks mom fondly refers to as her “Phillips family.” They love and embrace each other any time regardless of how long its been since they last spoke or saw each other. That is real family in my eyes.
All of this came to mind for me tonight as we put dear baby Carter to bed. Mom and dad said Carter’s bed time prayer as usual, but afterward mom kept going. “And please bless Dolores Marlenga and the entire Marlenga family up in Phillips tonight, Lord. Please hold them in your arms and remind them that dear uncle Frank is in a better place. Please give them hope in knowing they will see him someday when we are all together again in heaven.” It’s always dark in the room when we pray as a family at night, but I know a shaky voice when I hear one. She was crying as she said those words.
Mom’s great uncle Frank left for heaven a couple of days ago, and though we all know it was his time, that never makes these times any easier. I’ve gathered by the timing involved that we will not be making the journey to the funeral, but I suppose that’s okay. Because that’s the thing that so special about this family. They can be so far away and yet are always close together. Always in each other’s hearts.
That’s the souvenir I took home with me on that long car ride home from that place called Phillips, Wisconsin. That’s the souvenir I carry with me in my heart on a daily basis. The peace. The hope. The joy in knowing family like that is never far away.