Monday, March 11, 2013

Cultivating Relationships

On Tuesday, March 5th, my dear Uncle Larry left his earthly home and entered in to the Gates of Heaven to meet his Lord & Savior. His breathing had changed in the middle of the night, and just a few short hours later ... his faith became sight.  

Grandad & I left home at 5:30 Thursday evening to make the drive to my hometown about 7 hours away. We checked-in to the hotel around 11:30pm and then up Friday morning by 5:30am.  We met up with my parents & my sister at the funeral home and had a few moments to ourselves & my uncle. My aunt said there were over 545 family & friends who signed the registry from the visitation & funeral to pay their respects -- that was a wonderful testimony of my uncle's life throughout our community.  

The chapel was filled by the time his life celebration began on Friday morning.  A DVD was played of my aunt & uncle's 50th wedding anniversary celebration a few years ago ... they were married 53 years! What a testimony that is -- especially in today's society.  Special singing, special words and a special message followed.  After the graveside service, the family congregated at our home church for a wonderful luncheon provided by our awesome hometown friends.  We spent quite a bit of time chatting, eating and remembering.

Then, Grandad & I started our journey home as did my parents & sister.  On the 7 hour journey home, Grandad & I talked of memories of both our childhoods & memories of our families ... we talked of moving away & our own family growing ... we talked of our legacy that we will someday leave to our daughter & grandchildren as well as our family & friends:  

How are we developing our relationships now so that they will carry on 
throughout the future generations?  

Normally I do not like to talk about our time ending here on earth (yes, to be blunt -- death).  But one thing I certainly know is this --- my relationships (whether family, friends, acquaintances) will make a difference either for good or not. I was brought up in a family that valued our relationship with each other.  We didn't know what the terms "immediate family" and "extended family" meant ... matter of fact, I don't even remember hearing those phrases until Grandad & I moved away.  I always considered "my family" as everyone who lived in our little "holler" -- my parents & sister, my Granny, aunts, uncles, cousins.  

And they will always simply be "my family".

In an age where so many people look for instant gratification, I think they also think of relationships in terms of the instant gratification as well.  We cannot expect to have a close relationship with others if we are not willing to put our time & efforts into others.  That's the main reason that (when we moved so far away from home) we spent countless hours driving back & forth several times a year for several years to "go back home" to visit our families.  We would stay at Grandad's parents' house & then make trips from there to visit my family & more of his family.  We always had a "base" where we would stay, then branch out for family visits.  We cultivated our relationships.  For the past several years our traveling has slowed down tremendously, but we are still reaping the harvest of our cultivation.  

We can look at relationships like this ... we have a flower garden to plant.  So, we till the soil, dig the holes & plant the flower seeds. We cover the seeds & begin to water the soil ... the sun comes out & gives them warmth to help them grow ... we water some more ... the sun shines down brightly on our seeds.  We continue this process until we see the flowers blooming.  Some people may want to stop right here ... they don't continue the watering process ... they don't weed the flowers of unwanted weeds that start growing in the flowers.  They may say -- 

I'm too busy to keep watering & weeding while waiting on the sun to do its part in the growing process -- 
Why won't these flowers just do what I want them to do -- 
or simply ... 

I give up. 

What they're missing is this ... just like with any other gardening process, relationships take time to grow.  The cultivating process must be done many many times in order to see the harvest.  Flowers & vegetables don't grow from seedlings to blooms overnight ... and neither do relationships.  We can't expect a bouquet of flowers or a dinner table of fresh vegetables if we haven't sown the seeds & cultivated our plants to harvest ... so what makes us think we can bypass the cultivation process with our relationships?

On Saturday morning, February 23rd, when I received a text message from one of my cousins that our Uncle Larry had a massive stroke ... I cried.  The following days brought many phone calls & text messages throughout our family for updates on Uncle Larry ... sometimes good updates, sometimes not.  And although we were hours away, we were still there ... 

we had sown the seeds (or rather, the "family" seeds had already been sown for us), 
we spent time cultivating our relationships throughout the years 
and we were so thankful that we were able to make the 7 hour journey home to say our earthly goodbyes to Uncle Larry. 

And just like with many family members who have left this earth before us, we have so many good memories that we will carry through the days ahead til we meet up with him again one day. 

And our relationships will go with us throughout eternity ... 

From the late '70s

I always enjoyed having our family pictures made at holidays ... 

memories made for a lifetime


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