"A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation."
It was to be a sad phone call.
My cousin, Eddie's number was on the Caller ID.
It always picks me up to pick up the phone and talk to him.
This time, it didn't.
"Betty's gone", was how he broke it to me.
"Yeah, she died, Cheryl."
I didn't realize she was that bad."
I had spoken to her on the phone not so long ago.
Her voice was weak and frail, but I didn't know it was to be the last time I heard it.
"Yeah, we didn't either.
I was just there with her Saturday.
I took her a burger and a coke.
She was happy....sittin' up in her chair and everything."
Eddie sounded beyond sad.
My heart felt even sadder.
In the past few years, so many have died...
passed off the scene....
gone on to their reward.
On Dad's side, there are only 2 siblings left....
out of 11.
On Mom's side, there are only 3...
out of 9.
Aunt Betty was a kind soul.
She never married.
She lived with Dad's Mom...in the very same house....
for as long as I can remember....
and she took care of her....
until the day Grandma died a few years before Dad.
She had a boyfriend named Junior, for years.
I always thought they would marry,
she would move out,
and move on....with her life.
It never happened.
She was a humble, unassuming kind.....
most of Dad's family is like that.
They mean well.
They aren't out to hurt anyone.
Down-to-earth as they can be....
and good-hearted enough to make the world a better place.
They are dying off.
It makes me sad...down to the core of my heart.
I guess we have reached the stage of life in which this is inevitable....
but it sure is painful.
but it sure is painful.
Eddie and I sat and talked for quite a while.
Later, my Aunt Hazel called...to make sure I knew about Aunt Betty.
I worry about losing her now.
I dread the day I get the phone call...
probably from Eddie...
with the dreaded news.
Family means a lot to me.
It always has...but it seems the older I get, the more important family becomes.
The more loved ones I lose, the more precious the remaining ones are to my heart.
The longer I live, the harder it is to accept this thing called the circle of life.
Honestly, nothing is a sacrifice...
when it comes to serving and helping the ones I love....
the ones I proudly call "my family".
I deeply love every last one of them,
and if they need me, I don't think twice about doing anything I can....
for any one of them.
We are not perfect people.
We have never claimed to be.
We. Are. Family.
And that is all that matters.
In 1998, my Uncle Paul died.
He was very dear to me, and his death affected me deeply.
We used to email back and forth almost every day,
and he was an important, stable part of my life.
He was one of the most comical people I've ever been around.
Sometimes, it was hard to tell if he was joking or being serious.
I remember being at his funeral in Ohio, and the time coming towards the end
when the minister allowed everyone to come and view the body one last time.
I felt so sad....knowing he would no longer be a part of my life.
I will never forget watching Mom and Dad stand up to step into the line
and walk up front to Uncle Paul's casket.
Knowing they were there with us,
still strong and vibrant and alive...
gave me such a deep sense of comfort and peace....
and cushioned the blow of losing Uncle Paul.
Less than two years later, Dad, along with everything he meant to me....was gone.
Almost 13 years later, Mom, too, passed quietly off the scene.
Four days ago, was the one year anniversary of Mom's death.
I thought I would never get through the losing-them-process.....
to this day, I still haven't gotten over it.
I miss both of them terribly every, single day.
Family ties are strong...and hard to break.
Can't we all relate?
Haven't we all felt the bitter pangs of losing the ones we love?
If you haven't, I hate to break it to you,
but if God spares time and life long enough....
your day is coming.
You will hurt.
Your heart will break.
You will feel grief....so intense....so breath-knocking.....
that you will literally wonder if you will ever be able to draw in air...enough to survive.
Earthly relationships, however precious they be,
are temporary and fleeting.
The thread of life is extremely brittle....fragile...easily broken in two.
Both of my parents died in hospital Intensive Care Units
surrounded by the most up-to-date, modern medical equipment and procedures available...
administered by skilled, efficient, highly-educated doctors and nurses.
I remember standing in the hall talking to Dad's cardiologist.
He looked at me and said,
"There is such a thing as prolonging life,
and there is such a thing as prolonging death."
"So, what are we doing here...in Dad's situation?"
I asked through a continual flow of tears.
"We are prolonging death."
His voice was kind...and sympathetic.
He went on to explain that even if we didn't pull the plug,
even if we opted to keep Dad on life support,
he would die within a short period of time.
The cold, hard truth settled down over me,
along with the realization of how little control we really have....
in spite of the strides that have been accomplished in the medical field.
The words of King Solomon found in Ecclesiastes 8:8 came to my mind...
"There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit;
neither hath he power in the day of death..."
No matter how tightly we cling to life,
we are powerless to prolong it when God says it is time to go.
When He says it's time, it's time.
No matter what is being done medically,
there is an appointed time for each of us to die,
and there is no man who can change that.
Regardless how hard we fight it.
In spite of who is standing near or what credentials they have earned.
So, while we are here...
while there is life....
we should cherish the moments...
love our families,
and be kind.
Let each other know how we really feel...
and how much it would hurt to wake up without them here.
when His family came to see Him and wanted to talk to Him.
When someone told Jesus that His mother and brothers
were waiting outside the room to speak with Him,
"...He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said,
Behold, My mother and My brethren!
For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven,
the same is My brother, and sister, and mother."
When I used to read this, I wondered at His meaning.
I think I get it now.
It is a spiritual family into which we have been individually adopted.
A family where God is our Father,
and Jesus Christ is our brother.
"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;
but ye have received the Spirit of adoption,
whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ..."
Jesus claims us for His Own!
His blood...running through the spiritual veins of the individual members of His body....
makes each one of us spiritually-related.
It is a very deep, strong, and precious bond...
that joins our hearts and souls and becomes more dear as time passes.
This is why we hurt when we hear of the pain of our brother or sister in Christ.
Speaking of how we are each individual members in the collective Body of Christ,
"And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it;
or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it."
I Corinthians 12:26
What could be more precious?
What bond could be more strong?
Our individual fellowship with Jesus automatically infuses us with a common bond...
a family thread...
that is interwoven throughout the diversity of God's children.
We comprise His Church...here on earth.
We are His people.
"Know ye that the LORD he is God:
it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."
Under whatever umbrella or label we worship God,
we are all fed and nurtured by the same gentle Shepherd.
Hence, there are shared family traits.
I was standing in line, next to Kevin,
a couple of weekends ago,
in a pizza parlor.
We were getting ready to place an order,
when I sensed the presence of someone next to me.
I turned to be met with the sweetest smile.
It just completely illuminated her whole face.
"How are you?" I asked.
We exchanged pleasantries.
Then I had to say it.
"I know you must be a Christian."
Somehow the sweetness of her personality gave her away.
She beamed....even brighter, as she replied,
"YES! I am!
And I know you are, too."
With jubilant joy, I replied,
"YES! I am!"
Each one of us recognized the family resemblance.
There was no doubt that we were sisters.
We didn't look a thing alike....on the outside.
We were different...entirely.
Different hair color, different body shape, different clothes....
but, on the inside?
The part God looks upon?
The covered-by-Jesus'-blood part of us?
We looked exactly the same.
Walking in fellowship....with Him.
I would have loved to have had time to sit down with her
to lean in to a lengthy conversation about our Father and our Brother.
It would have been the sweetest discourse...I could just tell.
When her order was ready and she was getting ready to turn and go out the door,
she turned to me first.
It was an automatic, knee-jerk reaction.
We both reached our arms out to each other at the same time.
As we were pulling away from our sister-to-sister hug,
she whispered, "I love you" in my ear.
"I love you, too" I said...from the bottom of my heart.
I just met this woman....yet, I loved her dearly.
I would have made great sacrifice to bless her...
without a doubt...
without thinking twice.
The bond of fellowship was just there.
Planted deep in each of our hearts.
So that when we came in to contact with each other,
we recognized Jesus!
Isn't that the neatest thing?
I felt sad as she walked away...
wish I could have gotten to know her better.
Maybe one day, when we are all reunited...
when all of God's children are gathered around His table, enjoying eternity together,
I will. :~)