I remember when I was little getting my last name tossed about and morphed into slang, such as, Sloopy, Slop, Sloopster, my favorite: Sloop Doggy Dog and the all too common Slooooooop! I never knew whether people were making fun of me or congratulating me for having such a fun last name. I remember being excited to trade in the “Sloop” for “Kelty” on my wedding day, but held onto Sloop as a middle name simply because my sister did it and it always seemed safe to follow her lead. Let me say, I have never been prouder to be Kate “Sloop” Kelty, with my head held high and my heart swollen with joy. I am a lucky girl to have been born into this family and to bear this great surname. If you are reading this and you are a Sloop, you are most definitely nodding your head in agreement and with teriffic pride.
Every couple of years Sloop blooded souls from all over the globe gather to reunite and to do “our thing.” This reunion was a three year gap from the last and so we were all very ready to be together, to reminisce and to reconnect. This year’s reunion was held right here in our very own Harrionburg, Virginia, where mama cooked and cleaned for weeks in preparation for our 30 guests to hub at her house and to nest at mine and Kristen’s as well. I adore my aunts and uncles and cousins so much and their children too. Actually, all of my little second cousins call me Aunt Kate, and so the added bonus is getting to have extra neices and nephews!!!
Our Virginia weather was a perfect description of the heart of our gathering. There were moments of teriffic sunshine and breeze with a light and refreshing gust of joy and then there were the moments of rain, of clouds, the presence of a sadness the couldn’t be denied. There were Sloops missing that made our reunion incomplete. Lisa and Werner and their kids Sara and Ben are missionaries in Austria and came home in December and couldn’t make it back again. Keira, my cousin in law and her eldest son Jamie were in Canada with a trip they had planned before the reunion. The greatest absence and the one that carried the heaviest cloud over our fest was the absence of Uncle Steve. Steve went unexpectedly to join Jesus 2 years ago on February 14 and his vitality, humor, affection and laughter are irreplacable. For weeks leading up to the reunion my heart was heavy knowing that our gathering would carry the pain for my Aunt Betty and cousins, Anne, Scott and Ross, of being all together but not all together.
Grief has an awful way of rearing its ugly head in the very moments you don’t want it to and making moments that are traditionally happy not so happy. I pray for each of the Steve Sloop’s, that the teriffic grief of loss was met with the joy of remembering their beloved and that they left Harrisonburg feeling refreshed and blessed that their husband, daddy and Vovo (Portuguese for Grandaddy) forever made them Sloops!!!
As I ponder Uncle Steve’s absence like the storm clouds that drifted in for the reunion, I can’t help but think of the scripture in Hebrews that talks about our loved ones who have gone before us as the “Great Cloud of witnesses” applauding their earth bound family on towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. It is so easy for me to envision and to even faintly hear the sounds of our Great family hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” being sung from the balconies of heaven, and to hear a little girl joyously singing along too, smiling at the impressive blend of harmonies we Sloops signaturely provide. Anna girl, I am sure you too are holding your head high for the Sloopness that is in and around you!
The highlights of our reunion were getting to celebrate sweet Rachel’s 2nd birthday, introducing Melissa to the clan, mom’s great cooking, lots of good desserts, getting to meet new cousins and new spouses and seeing Uncle Jody (my eldest cousin) who I hadn’t seen in ten years. Of course the favorite moment, if I might speak on behalf of everyone, was the traditional Sloop family sing-a-long with the familiar and beloved hyms and Portuguese tunes that I sing along to even though I don’t have a clue what I am saying. This was the most profound moment of missing Uncle Steve. He had such a beautiful tenor voice and his absence in the sibling quartet kept me asking, “Why does this not sound as good as it used to?” (Sorry Daddy, Sandy and Helen…you have beautiful voices too!)
There was a new song introduced to our sing-a-long which will undoubtedly be a new fixture in the song repetoire. “Mr. Rabbit”, written by my brother-in-law Mike Ramsey, is a silly, simple song about different animals and their homes. It was a big hit with everyone but especially with John John. His intense enthusiasm had us all rolling.
Thank you Sloops from Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and even Lisbon, Portugal, for heading to the Valley for a wonderful, fabulous, meaningful celebration. The memories will carry me until 2010 where there could possibly even be one more Mrs. Sloop and a few new babies:)
Chris and I are planning on seeing Uncle Sandy and Aunt Annie sooner than that. Lisbon here we come!!! We are already googling Portugal for our kid free 2nd (or should I say 1st) honeymoon next July. My whole life I have wanted to see Lisbon with my own eyes, and to stand in front of the windmill photo that hangs in our house and I can’t believe it’s gonna happen. Sandy and Annie have always made a geneous offer to their neices and nephews to help get them overseas. I believe I am the only neice that hasn’t made it yet. Along with their offer, the Steve Sloop family made a time share offer to us after we lost Anna that we were never able to fulfill…until now. So let’s pray I’ll be able to loosen my grip on my children and keep from being “with child” for the fourth year in a row so Chris and I can jump across the world for some much needed “us” time. I am also jealous of the concentrated time that my other cousins and siblings have gotten with Sandy and Annie in their little pocket of the world. I can’t wait to know and love them more.
The 2nd Cousins
Aunt Betty, Mama and Annie
So in closing…. Sloopster’s, Slop’s and Sloopy’s, thanks for making me so proud to belong to each of you. I can’t wait for the next time! It can’t come soon enough! All My Love~Katie