In 1994, the year after my father-in-law died, I planned a surprise for my husband on our anniversary. I wrote all of his east coast relatives and asked if we could celebrate the Orthodox Christmas together. The older generation of my husband's family were raised Serbian Orthodox, and we'd chosen that date for our wedding. There were questions: "What do you mean 'together?'" and my answers: "All members of the family, together at one location for dinner that night—no bad feelings, no recriminations for past events...just everyone from all generations together." Finally, the day came when we were to board the plane. My husband didn't know where we were going, only that we were flying to see someone he loved. His surprise was great when he realized where we were going and that I'd brought along all the gifts that he'd been saving for years to someday hopefully give to that part of his family.
Three days later we all met at the restaurant. They put us in the most perfect room for our gathering. There were a few TVs (so the men could bond as they watched football) and some pinball games (for the teenagers to play and let adults chat), and a fantastic wait staff. All of my husband's aunts and uncles were there. It had been ten years to the date since two of the sisters had last spoke and twenty years since feud had started. Their brother sat across from them, watching the sister's interaction as if it was the greatest gift he'd even received. The children of all these relatives were watching their parents talk to one another for the first time since they finished school, and for the grandchildren, for the first time in their lifetimes.
I took some pictures, but mostly just worked to make sure everyone was happily talking to someone, or cuddling a new-found cousin or relative. The wait staff knew I was the responsibly party, and brought me the tab at the end of the evening. For their incredible service and great response to all of the five different generations in the room, I gave them a 50% gratuity. They made it possible for that night to be special.
As the cousins were packing up their various children, one after another came over to ask me what their part of the dinner had cost. Over and over I explained that this was my gift to them, and that my joy was in seeing their joy. One cousin summed it up for the group "Do you know what you've done?!? You've given me my Aunt again; you have given me my cousins back! You've done what no one was able to do in over 10 years! You have to let us pay for this...miracle!" I replied simply "Your words are my gift. My Mom taught me that the joy of giving a great gift is greater than any gift given in return. Please, accept this gift from my heart."
Two weeks later I received packages in the mail from each of the cousin's families, each precious for the unique thoughts that went into them. But nothing could outshine the joy I felt that night in being able to reunite the siblings.
Submitted by Anonymous