Nothing like family ties

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 30, 2012

My sister Julia went to her heavenly home last week. I grieve her loss and regret that I couldn’t attend the celebration of her life. I was out of state on a family matter.

We weren’t blood kin, you know. True, Julia and I had a kinship as Christians and wives of United Methodist ministers. But one day several years ago, Julia told me she considered me her sister. I felt honored. I felt humbled. I felt flattered. I am an only child, never blessed with brother or sister. What a joy, what a privilege. During the past 18 years, I had come to know Julia well. Even then, her health was precarious. But Julia kept going.

Family was important to Julia. It was obvious that she was a devoted mother with children who love and respect her. I saw her as a wife who honored her marriage vows to love, honor and cherish her husband whom she cared for so tenderly during his declining years. She demonstrated that she was a loving daughter who also devoted herself to caring for her aged mother. When I knew her, Julia never had time for Julia. Despite her pain, she stayed busy caring for family.

Family. That’s the reason I wasn’t there to say my final good-bye to Julia. My daughter and I were out of state to be with my son during his back surgery. We got up at 4 a.m. the day of surgery to drive him to the hospital for his appointment. We never did know exactly what caused the delay, but it was afternoon before we hugged him and wished him well as they finally wheeled him into the operating room. During our long wait with him, brother and sister kept up the inevitable joking and teasing between them, their way to alleviate anxiety. We are so thankful that our prayers and those of many others for his successful surgery were answered.

As we awaited his surgery, I thought of the days my son, daughter, granddaughter, and I clung to each other in support during my husband’s final days. Always, there was that sense of love, of caring, of belonging within our small family unit.

Reflecting on family reminds me of visits to my grandparents’ house as a child. My granddaddy unashamedly greeted all his children and grandchildren with hugs and kisses just like my grandmother. There I was not only enveloped with love by them, but I was delighted with the presence of my many cousins, aunts and uncles. I remember the murmur of familiar voices, the laughter, and the gatherings at the big table in the kitchen near the stove over which my grandmother presided. I enjoyed such a sense of belonging there. Most of those voices are silenced now. Like my sister Julia, those dear ones have gone to their heavenly home.

Family is very special, whether it is blood kin or bound by treasured friendship.