Did you ever wonder what Heaven would be like when you were a child? Well, I know I did. I imagined it being like the wonderful annual picnic that my family used to attend. It was fantastic. There was good food, good company, and a beautiful “down home” setting with everyone in a joyous mood.
As a boy in the 1950s, I always looked forward to the annual Daniels Day picnic in the fishing village of Wanchese, on Roanoke Island, in North Carolina. Although my mother wasn’t a Daniels before marriage, she was related to the family as were most people who were raised on the island.
The Daniels Day picnic was for everyone with lineage in the family, no matter how distant. All were invited to the event, held each August on the grounds of the local Methodist church. I guess you could call it a super extended family event; even people close to the family but not related usually attended.
My family was always on the Outer Banks in August for vacation at our beach cottage, so we didn’t have to make a special trip to attend. But many did travel long distances; I can remember people from as far away as Texas and points west at the event.
The picnic was held on August nineteenth. That date is Virginia Dare Day, the celebration of the birth on Roanoke Island of the first child born to English parents in America. Born on August 19, 1587 to Elinor and Ananias Dare, the infant Virginia was part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony which disappeared without a trace sometime between 1588 and 1590.
I remember walking to the picnic from my aunt’s home across the street. The cars were parked on the church grounds and up and down the road as far as I could see. It was the one day each year when traffic made the town appear much larger.
Hundreds of people were there. Grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were in attendance. It was a chance to renew old relationships and establish new ones.
Many of the people knew each other well, but some were complete strangers. It just showed how the family had scattered over the generations and how this special occasion was so important to fostering the family heritage.
One thing was certain; nobody was going home hungry. There was a huge selection of meats, vegetables, salads and desserts and gallons of iced tea and lemonade were at the ready.
My mouth watered as I smelled the delicious aromas and thought about what, and how much, I would eat. I couldn’t wait for the fried chicken and apple cobbler with ice cream.
At the appointed hour, the Methodist minister said grace and the party began. Eating was the main show but the adults were also consumed by talking with other family members and getting updates.
We kids had a wide variety of games to play and since it was always warm and humid in August our clean appearance quickly disappeared. Playing tag and pick-up games in our good summer clothes was probably not a good idea.
The food and drink tables were open for hours and we obligingly gorged ourselves. We justified this as a special event. We promised not to do it again, at least until next year or maybe Thanksgiving.
As the sun started to sink behind the trees, everyone realized it was probably time to start packing up. So after helping with the clean up and saying goodbye to old and new friends, I departed with my parents a little dirty, very tired, but happy and content.
Now I haven’t been back to Daniels Day or Roanoke Island in many years. I don’t even know if they hold the event anymore. I am sure things have changed there just like everywhere else. But one thing has never changed.
Even though I am now over sixty, I can think of no better worldly example of how beautiful Heaven must be than my memories of that wonderful picnic. But I also know it will be even better.
My life in Heaven will be without pain or the limitations of the human body and I will not just be with my family and friends but I will also be with the Father and His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. And Heaven won’t end when the day is done. It will last for Eternity.
Oh, how wonderful it will be.
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