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We were truly blessed growing up. Not only did my two brothers, sister and I have great parents; we had terrific aunts and uncles and cousins. We also lived relatively close together. Aunt Jane and Uncle Al and their four sons were less than three blocks away, while Aunt Catherine and Uncle Johnny and their two sons and daughter were less than a half-hour drive away.

We always celebrated Christmas together with our relatives, as well as birthdays. The same was also true for weddings when our generation was blessed with spouses. Not one, but two cousins and their wives have passed the 50th wedding anniversary. My brother Dave and his wife Holly are two years away from their 40th, with Phil and Helen approaching their 36th, JoAnn and me our 28th and Mary Jo and her husband, Holden, celebrated their 20th.

Of course, there have been funerals as well as weddings to attend as a family. The last of the previous generation to leave this world for the next was Aunt Jane in 2011, but it was the death of our Mother in 2009 that led to a different kind of get-together.

Christmas was when my immediate family counted on getting together at Mother’s. After her death, we decided to rent a vacation home for a few days around the Fourth of July in what we termed Koz Fest.

It turned out to be more successful than we had hoped. In addition to my siblings and our spouses, we have a niece and two nephews as regulars. Then we invited a cousin and his wife, as well as their daughter and her friend. This year we were joined by a cousin and his wife from the other branch of the family. Also, it was the first time my nephew Christian and his wife, Amelia, attended as a married couple.

These family get-togethers have produced countless special memories. They are also a reminder that a family’s love is a reflection of the love God has for all His children.

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We are bound together by love.

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