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Vogt's Notes: Life's journey begins and ends with family

I've been reflecting on family - and the extreme importance of family - after attending two family reunions two weekends in a row this month. Photo Illustration

That phrase - Life's journey begins and ends with family - is front and center in my kids' scrapbooks. I'm not sure where it came from - a book of quotes and phrases we scrapbookers use, I believe - so I can't attribute it.

But I truly believe in the phrase.

My scrapbooks are filled with other family phrases I just love:

• A family is a gift that lasts forever.

• Other things may change us, but we start and end with family. (Anthony Brandt)

• Families are forever.

• Time changes everything, but one thing remains - family.

• You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.

And simply:

• Family is everything.

There's another one I think is pretty funny, and I'm sure true in most if not all families:

• Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a lot of nuts! (Les Dawson)

It's likely to safe to say we all have a few nuts in our extended families - or maybe we are that nut.

I've been reflecting on family - and the extreme importance of family - after attending two family reunions two weekends in a row this month.

The first was at Grand Beach, Michigan, with aunts, uncles, cousins and significant others on my mom's side of the family. If not for Facebook, I wouldn't know much about many of these relatives because we only get together every few years. When we do gather, the love and happiness is powerful.

The location of this reunion is particularly nostalgic for me because it was at the home my grandparents built on Lake Michigan around 1970. I grew up going there during the summers and at Christmastime, and I have such wonderful memories of those times. All those memories revolve around family gathered around the dining room table eating or playing games or gossiping, or family gathered on the beach having fun in the water, or family gathered in the living room for the annual Christmas talent show.

Many family members have died; many more have joined the family through marriages and births. I'm thankful for each and every one of them.

The second reunion was at my in-laws' cabin on North Long Lake. We've held this reunion every year since surprising my father-in-law for his 65th birthday. He turned 78 last Friday. His name is Don, and we have affectionately called this gathering "Donfest" since year one.

It's an all-out good time as family members and friends we consider family pitch tents around the perimeter of the yard. We sit around the campfire day and night, play a bean bag tournament, have fun on the lake and simply enjoy one another.

Again, not all family members who attended that first reunion are around anymore. My mother-in-law died a year and a half ago, and we continue to feel her loss. A sister-in-law and brother-in-law haven't attended since moving to Arizona after that first year.

And of course over the years others have joined and left the family ranks.

I'm thankful for each and every member of this family too.

I highly encourage everyone to attend or host a family reunion. Don't dread it; embrace it. Remember: Family is everything.