The Farewell Prayer Tour: My Family’s Way of Saying Goodbye — For Now
Aunt Alice is going blind. My dad is hard of hearing. Uncle Tom can’t remember. It’s a sad state of affairs. But these were some of the folks gathered for the self-described “Farewell Tour” for my parents and their siblings. My dad and mom made their way from Florida. Other siblings came from Tennessee and Colorado. It was a time to say goodbye for now and pray for each other.
Grandma and Grandpa Davis had 10 children beginning in the early 1930s. Every two years or so, a new sibling would arrive. My mother was number 10.
Our family gatherings as far back as I can remember were hugs and laughs and smiles. Grandpa was a preacher, and all ten kids professed a belief in Christ. The reunions saw nearly 100 people after the Davis children had children, and their children had more.
Life passed by quickly. The children are getting old. The oldest is 87. The youngest is 70. They know, especially with some of their health problems, that life is short. It may be the last trip some of them take. But it wasn’t gloomy. As Alice said, “I don’t think we’ll ever get to do something as fun again.”
The Farewell Prayer Tour
Everyone met Thursday at Alice’s house in East Texas. Few grandkids’ photos were shared. That’s because this trip was different. It was a time to enjoy each other’s company, and maybe share belly laughs about the “good old days.” Dinah, my mom, said, “We just visited and hollered and laughed and laughed at each other’s foibles and memories and hearing loss. It was fun because — you know when you’re old, you don’t have any agenda. You just don’t care that ‘my kids are smarter than your kids,’ anymore. You just don’t care.” Four of Alice’s siblings spent the night at her home.
“It’s just a time of knowing, ‘Hey, I don’t know if I’ll get to see this person again.’ When you get up into your 70s and 80s, you do think like that. You think, ‘this is a treat to get to visit with them again.'” It was also a time of prayer and restoration of relationships.
The next day, the group met up with another sister and went to David’s home. David’s health is declining. The siblings visited with David and his wife. Then they prayed. “Let’s all hold hands and pray,” David said. “We prayed for [David’s] health and that his strength would return,” explained Dinah.
Back to Their Childhoods
The next day, Dinah took some of her siblings to the Houston area to visit their oldest sister. Dinah laughed as she told the story of the five of them in the car, three cramped in the back. Two in the back were hard of hearing. Every time those in the front seat said something, the ones in the back couldn’t hear. “What was that?” they asked over and over. The car was filled with love and laughter.
“When we get together we go back to our childhood,” said Dinah. “We had such a happy childhood that when we do that, all aggravations kind of disappear. … we were just able to enjoy our siblings for probably the last time together.”
On Sunday, Dinah and my dad, Wendell, drove to the Dallas area to visit another sister. Her husband is quite ill and the strain of it all has been hard on her. Dinah comforted her. After visiting for a bit, they all gathered around the husband. They held onto him as Wendell prayed. “Lord we lift [him] up to you, remembering that you held us in our youth and you are holding us now. We trust you for your grace and mercy for him always.”
Later that day, my parents, my husband, and three of my boys and I had dinner at a local restaurant north of Dallas. The restaurant was freezing and the food wasn’t good, but we still enjoyed being together. When it was time to go, my parents prayed over my boys. After spending their last night of the tour with us, they said their goodbyes and boarded the plane.
The Importance of Getting Together
“When we got to visiting, we didn’t feel old at all! Giggling together does that. And we really did laugh lots,” Dinah says. She shared part of a poem her sister Sue once wrote, which described the trip. “We frolicked and played and forgot our ages. Straight back to our childhood we turned the pages.”
Dinah encourages everyone to visit their loved ones while there’s still time. Especially those getting up in years. “It was just a good time, which you wouldn’t think a trip like that would be, but it was. And when you laugh, then when somebody dies, you’re going to remember that. You’ve got that in your pocket to remember, ‘Hey, I did go say goodbye. … I wanted to know that I said goodbye. But I didn’t say goodbye forever.’”