Art is Cindy’s dad. I knew him because of our friendship and family relationship with Jim and Cindy. Art is Jamie’s grandfather, our son John’s wife. Art was 83 when he went home. He was a hard working farmer, a community man, good natured, humorous, and witty. I only talked with him a few times over the last few years. Yet, at his funeral, his life spoke to me strongly.
Art had the pleasure and the honor to pass from this life in a biblical manner. He was in Florida and his heart problems were getting the best of him. The family all went to Florida to be with their dad. He had the distinct honor of being able to gather his family around his bed and give farewell words that will resonate in their hearts for the rest of their lives and mine.
When they related his farewell, I was reminded deeply of what is important. He told them, “We are family, you are family, help one another.” It instantly grabbed my heart and I heard the echoing of my grandmother’s words spoken to my mom, “keep the family together.” I could hardly keep from wailing out loud. I choked back cries and stifled tears as best as I could, but the words were from God and I could not but hear the Lord speaking to me.
Family is not only important, it is pretty much what life is about. Our families are made up of all kinds; yet they are family. Help one another. Be there for one another. The rest of the world may hate you, reject you, but family sticks with you.
I am told and I saw as a small child two aunts come to live with my grandmother to help her. She was widowed when she was in her 50’s. My aunt Minnie and uncle Clyde sold their farm and moved in with grandma. They went because she needed help. At one time, there was my grandmother, my two aunts, uncle Clyde, and my mom and dad, all living in one house so family could make it.
I had the pleasure of meeting two young orthodox Jews who I liked immediately. They spoke of family and what it meant to them. They were the products of immigrants who came with nothing, escaping Communism, risking their lives to be free. Their parents sacrificed to give them a life and a business and now they were acutely aware of passing the legacy to their children. In Jewish circles, the family is the center of worship. The table is the altar. To be invited to share a meal in a Jewish home is to be invited to worship. It is the highest compliment of acceptance.
God established family. Built the bonds to last. It is interesting that in the book, Heaven is For Real, that when Colton went to heaven as a little child, his greatest remembrances were of family that took care of him. A grandfather that has passed before he was born cared for him in heaven. He met a sister that was a miscarriage in this world, but still a little girl in heaven. She came to play with him.
In my own family, aunt Minnie, as she was passing from this world, spoke of the family at the foot of the bed, waiting for her. Unbelievers spoke of delirium, but now I know that this godly woman was seeing beyond the veil.
I think my mom and dad have done a good job of “keeping the family together.” When we have gatherings, there is around 40 people now. I have been blessed by how the cousins love one another and get along. Marriages have welded others into the family. We are carrying on the tradition. My brother, sister, and I have been kind of doing the organizing now, but family is life.
The church is meant to be the family of God, Jesus our brother, God our father, Holy Spirit our helper, close associate. The references to family are many in scripture as a way of understanding what God is doing with us. The bonds are meant to be strong, “help one another” “keep it together.”
This is what I have always wanted and worked for with the family of God. It has been nearly impossible. Even as the family is being fought and ridiculed in the world, broken and devastated, fathers abandoning family, women refusing to care for their children, and the church aborting their children with neglect and lifelessness, the call of God is still for family and its sanctity.
I know when I walked away, Art’s words rang true. I left with a new resolve and a clarity that had been clouded by so many things. For my family,”help one another, keep it together,” and for the church family, “help one another, keep it together.” We have those who hate us and hate family, but God is for us. He sets the solitary!