3,633 miles. That is the approximate distance round trip from my house, to my sister, to the 3rd sister, to my parents, to the 4th sister, and back to my house. It would take approximately 54 hours, not including stops, to make the trip to all places. 3,633 miles seems like a lot. It is a lot. You could travel across America, from San Diego to the northern tip of Maine or from the most southern tip of Florida to the northern corner of the state of Washington in fewer miles. In fact, if you started your journey in Grand Forks, North Dakota you could go all the way to Costa Rica for about the same amount of mileage. No doubt about it, 3,633 miles is a long distance.
With so many miles between us all and with everyone at different points in their lives, it would be easy for us to lose touch. Easy to focus on relationships closer to home and keep in touch with the family just for holidays and big events. But we don’t. In fact, if you saw the four of us sisters with my parents, my husband, and my brother-in-law all interacting together, you would guess that we live within 20 minutes of each other and see each other weekly.
There is no awkwardness. No searching for things to say or for common ground to connect us. We don’t need to worry about small talk to take up time. Despite the miles, we keep in touch more than a lot of families I know. Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to my mom. Not a week passes without talking to my dad and all three sisters in one way or another. Sure there are times when we are busy. When one sister is studying for college exams while the other is doing traveling the country racing as a professional runner. Times when I am busy with work and my sister is trying to find time for writing a paper. But we still make time for family.
It might be an hour on the phone in deep conversation about faith or it may just be a quick text on lunch break to say hello. It may be a group video chat with all four sisters while our internet connections try to keep up with the commotion of four girls talking and laughing at once. It might be an inspiring story shared via email, a funny joke sent to make someone laugh, a card sent to their home to make them smile, or pictures of a new adventure shared with the family online. Thanks to the technology we have at hand, keeping in touch is easier than ever.
But it is more than technology which keeps us together. Mere computers and cell phones do not make the relationship we have so special. The love that defeats the distance before us is the same love that we learned from our parents from day one. It is the same love that, one by one, we are able to express in a new way with our husbands. It is the love that comes from God.
We were raised with family meal time and grace before meals. We were raised with family bedtime prayers every night, Mass every Sunday, and PSR (parish school religion) classes every Monday evening. We were raised with family camping trips, board games, pool parties, hide-and-seek, and story times. We were raised to dress up for church for the Lord, to be more excited about Mass than the Easter Bunny, and to make Christmas about far more than presents under the tree. And it is all of that and so much more that keeps us so close today. It is the countless family memories that shaped our childhood and the presence of God at the center of them all.
Being spread apart can be tough. But we are stronger than 3,633 miles. Our family bond together defeats the distance that separates us. We know what it is to be a family. We are united not only by the love we have for each other, but for the love of Christ that we all share. No matter the miles, no matter how busy we may be, we are always there. To help each other grow, to listen, to talk, to give advice, to argue at times, to forgive at times, to share stories, share recipes, share laughter, share prayers. We are always there to love each other. And with that love the miles melt away and the distance disappears into nothing.