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Erna’s reflections: Reunions can be the glue that holds families together

Joyous and sometimes sad, family reunions play an important role for the de Burger clan
The de Burger clan gathers for their biannual family reunion, an occasion Erna de Burger-Fex says helps hold her family together. (Erna de Burger-Fex)

What is more exciting than looking forward to a family reunion? Every two years my family of origin, the de Burger family, has a family reunion, and adults and children converge on a resort in Barrie in June (cheaper then) and joyfully greet all family members as they arrive. 

Some come on Friday, some on Saturday morning. The family now spans four generations. We have eight children under age 10 and they play together as though they had seen each other last week. Such a delight to watch! 

There is no whining, fighting nor is anyone excluded. Their play never needs to be organised as they decide themselves whether to just run, play on the playground equipment, whatever comes to mind and all join in happily.

The resort also has a pool, which we all appreciate. There are plenty of activities for all.

We, de Burger siblings, are the senior members of the family. (I’m the oldest.) Erna, Ron, Frank, Liesje and Lillian and our spouses cheerfully catch up on family news. It’s always such a marvellous time for us to be together as we live in various parts of the province. Even so, we are close. 

It’s wonderful to watch all the cousins interact and enjoy each other’s company. Some of our nieces and nephews are musical and bring their guitars for our enjoyment. Even the little ones are learning to play. Peals of laughter can be heard frequently, as well as singing by some who love to do that.

It happens that some cannot attend every time due to other commitments. They are missed but not forgotten. But the reunions are the glue that hold our family together.

The food for the weekend is pot luck. We all bring various dishes and there is always more than enough for all. Everyone brings their own drinks and snacks for their family.

Sadly, at our last reunion (2016), my brother Ron informed us (his siblings) that his leukemia had returned and courageously asked us not to tell our families in order to prevent the reunion from being all about this horrible news. And so, he was treated normally by the rest of the family as he wished. Ron died just seven weeks later on Aug. 5, which broke our hearts.

The reunions will continue as he wished with a vital link missing. Two other family members are quite ill at present and hopefully will have recovered by next summer.

The circle of life continues, although accepting that can come with great difficulty.

Erna de Burger-Fex is a writer and retired teacher who writes about aging and the funny side of getting older. Got a question for Erna? Email