Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Priceless Treasure of Family...

Sometimes you find treasures in quiet moments when you least expect them. Yesterday I went with my parents to a funeral for my Dad’s cousin Marti (Martha Ellen). I didn’t know her very well. It seemed the only times I ever saw her was at family baby or bridal showers or weddings. What I remember about her is her sweet smile, her bubbling effervescence for life and the way we could always pick up where we left off and not notice the years that had lapsed in between seeing each other last.

I was struggling with whether I should go or not. It wasn’t like we were what you would call close by any standards. I don’t remember ever meeting her kids or grandkids, although I’m sure at some point I did. I was afraid they’d say “who are you?” when they saw me at the funeral. I prayed about it quite a bit, and I really felt that I needed to be there.

I think that the past year or so, that God has been calling me into being more intentional in my relationships and dealings with people, and this was definitely something very intentional.

The funeral was at the church all of my “oldies” (older Aunts and Cousins on my Dad’s side of the family) attended at some point. It was a tiny little church (established in 1896) steeped in Lutheran culture and tradition. My Dad said that his parents and brothers and he attended there until he was 8 when a Lutheran church was built closer to their home.

Marti had attended there since 1985-like her mother before her. When we walked in, I asked my Dad if anything looked familiar, but he didn’t remember anything. My Uncle (his older brother by 4 years), came in and was looking all around and said “Boy, does this bring back memories!”  It’s pretty funny how just a couple of years changes everything about how much you remember when you are older.

Part of me wishes that life could go back to simpler times, and families could still all live in the same towns and be a part of each other’s daily lives and attend the same churches together for generations.

I’ve been pondering how different that funeral service was compared to funeral services held at our church. One thing was the candles on the altar. Our church only does candles at Christmas time. I asked if anyone knew the significance of the candles, but no one did-so I had to Google it when I got home. Initially the candles were there because there was no electricity and they were used for light. Then as they weren’t needed for light, they were used to represent “the light of the world”.  Most Lutheran churches have candelabras that have 3, 5, or 7 candles. There are 2 more candles that are placed on each side of the cross on the altar that are usually placed higher, and only lit on communion Sunday.

Another major difference was the tolling of the bells-such a somber, almost eerie sound-marking the death of someone. The ring the bell only on one side, one toll for each year of the deceased person’s life (or a combination of tolls like 6 tolls, a pause then 7 more tolls to indicate 67 years). We don’t have a bell tower on our newer more contemporary church building.

When we got there, my cousin Leona (you may remember her from an earlier post-when I ran into her at a garage sale-she’s 88!) sat right next to me in the pew and really didn’t leave my side. I was so incredibly blessed to have been there yesterday. Does that sound weird since I was at a funeral? Just being around all of my beloved oldies filled my heart to overflowing-even though the circumstances that brought us there were so sad. I spent a few hours catching up with Leona and talking garage sales! She was telling me how much she LOVES garage sales!! I told my parents it must be genetic that I LOVE sales so much-LOL!

In addition to Leona, her sisters Bernice and Loretta (and her husband Karl) were there, as well as their brother Roy (and his wife Connie), my Dad’s brothers Dale and Lowell (and his wife Doris) and a few other more distant relatives. Don’t you just love all the old names!?!

I was remembering the names of the sisters (my Dad’s mom and her sisters) who produced this legacy of family that was there yesterday. Their names were Elsie, Lillian (my grandma), Matilda (affectionately nicknamed “tightwad Tillie” by her sisters), Freida, and Emelia. I had the pure joy of growing up next door to my grandma on one side, my Uncle Lowell and his family on another side and my Aunt Elsie (Uncle Ed) and Leona on another side.

I even had the nicest visit with my Dad’s oldest brother (Dale) that I’ve ever had. He’s been volunteering at his tiny, local charity thrift shop and when they price the donated items if he thinks it is too low of a price, he buys the item, lists and sells it on Ebay then donates back all the profits! He brought along a little list (just in case I came) to ask me what I thought some things might be worth!  He recently bought an archery bow for $5-sold it on Ebay for $117 and gave them back $112!

As I reflect on the whole day…the history of the church and all the family members who worshipped there over the years, connecting again with much loved family, and just the blessing of all that those two things encompass—it was just a priceless treasure of a day.

I even have a date to go to a HUGE flea market/garage sale in Mt. Pleasant with Leona and her sister Loretta next spring! I hope when I’m her age, I’ll have half of her energy!

Yesterday was a full day on the circle of life…while we said good-bye to Marti in the morning, our dear friends welcomed their first grandson, and nephew Jackson Daniel into the world. What a bitter sweet day it was-leaving me with lots of things to ponder…treasures in the form of happy memories, hugs and connecting with family, a sweet new life, and the blessings of listening to God’s leading.

Hope you have a chance to find the treasure in your family and friends in the days, months and years to come!

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