I love any chance to be around my family.

Several years ago, we started a tradition of getting everyone in my family together in one place.

I love any chance to be around my family.

Several years ago, we started a tradition of getting everyone in my family together in one place.

Some years a few of us can't make it. But we usually get at least 25 of us together. We eat meals together and have fun together. Usually, a good bet is that there will be at least one lake and at least one golf course in the area. If there are other activities there, that's a bonus. We've visited Lake Tenkiller in eastern Oklahoma, Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma, Greer's Ferry Lake in central Arkansas and Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo.

This year was the third time we chose Branson. The lakes, golf courses and shows give all of us something we love.

Honestly, I was too busy to go this year. But there was no way I was going to miss it. Last year, my dad was with us and had a great time. We lost him two months later.

If I would have missed that last chance to eat every meal with him and have fun with him, I would never have forgiven myself. I didn't go this year with some morbid "you never know who will die" attitude. But losing dad made it more important not to miss any of the opportunities to be together.

Dad was missed in many ways. We missed him at the lake, at meals, and at shows.

Even drinking a Diet Coke brought him to mind. Dad always recycled cans and used the money to support one of the ministries he worked with. After I drank a soda, I asked my mom where we were keeping the cans. She reminded me that dad wasn't here this year and we weren't saving the cans.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

Then Dawit ended that same evening with another emotional moment when he was finally able to put some of his feelings into words for the first time.

We had watched the musical "Joseph" at the Sight and Sound Theater. It was a great show and both of our boys enjoyed the live animals used in the play and the singing and re-enactment of a familiar Bible story.

On the way back to our room, we asked the boys what their favorite part of the play was. Both had good answers. Then they asked me my favorite part.

I said I enjoyed when Jacob finally got to see his son Joseph again after assuming he was dead for many years.

Dawit jumped in and caught on to a facet of the story that we had missed. Jospeh had been imprisoned alone for years.

"Some people like being alone," Dawit said. "Some no likey alone."

My wife could tell he was thinking and asked him which kind of person he was. He said he did not like to be alone.

She asked him if he had ever felt alone.

"Yes," he said with sadness in his voice. She asked if it was when his birth mother left him at an orphanage.

"Yes. I was sad," Dawit said.

We got a chance to talk to him about how he would never be alone again. Now he has a mommy, a daddy and a brother and he will always be with us. He also loves his cousins on both sides of the family and no one enjoys being crazy at the lake or in a pool more than Dawit.

Family vacations are always special times. But this year had some moments that made it really memorable.

Hopefully, we'll be able to do something like this every year.