Tag Archives: Church

The Hug

May 20, 2013

Maybe it’s just me, but while I was growing up, I guess I never really gave any thought to the fact that my heroes and I would ever be adults at the same time. Of course, back then, I didn’t exactly think of my role models or my relatives as heroes either. Quite honestly, I didn’t understand myself or my truest values very well either. I guess there are a couple of points I should get to. One, in my eyes, I’m still just a kid compared to my parents, and to my aunts and uncles. Two, many of these people are, or were, my heroes.

I wrote these words while lying in a hall bed at my mother’s double cousin’s house. I was in town for the calling hours and funeral of my Aunt Janette. After driving six hours, enjoying dinner with family, going to the calling hours and visiting with family, I laid down to crash. But before sleep found me, I reached for these words and recorded them, raw and real.

Tonight, I saw pictures that brought me back to another time, visually, and ultimately in my mind I was taken back to a whole different era. Also tonight, one of my, bigger than life, heroes was standing right in front of me. I was waiting in line to visit with him, and his family, during calling hours for my Aunt Janette, his wife of 45 years, who had passed away three days prior. And even though I would put my Uncle Lloyd in the “hugs aren’t absolutely necessary, a handshake will do” category, I had long since decided that I was going to give him a big, warm hug upon my chance to be face to face with him. A big hug, that’s exactly what I was going to do. You might say, okay, big deal. Or maybe you’d even ask why a hug at all. I’ll explain. I wanted to hug my Uncle Lloyd and hold him for a moment, or two, to let him know how much he and Aunt Janette meant and always will mean to me. I wanted to hug him because here stood this man, no longer with his best friend at his side, but still greeting all who approached him in the best way he knew how, as his wife would also have done. I wanted to hug him because I love him. I wanted to hug him because I was hoping the genuine action itself would speak the volumes that my tear-soaked face, and emotionally overwhelmed, cracking, voice was not going to be able to get the words out. I wanted to hug him because he looked like he needed one, and I felt I did too. I wanted to hug him out of pure respect. I wanted to hug him because, while a handshake with a man of his caliber still means an awful lot, a hug would be unforgettable. I wanted to hug him in hopes that in some out-of-this-world way I could give him strength, support, encouragement, energy, stability, and reinforcement during such a difficult time. So, finally, I faced him, just he and I, suddenly alone in this little sliver of space, among the many in that sanctuary, and I gave my Uncle Lloyd a big hug. He said some things to me that I hope I never forget, we cried, and my voice worked just as poorly as I thought it would.

Pictures I saw at the front of the church, along the entrance to the sanctuary, and out in the hall took me down my own memory lane. I saw again, the beauty of my aunt and how it was always present where ever she was. I also saw the fit, strong, fearless, young man who my uncle was as I first remember him. Present too in those pictures, in a person who was so comfortable in his own skin, was the gleam of youthful, good-natured, mischievousness in his eyes. There’s more to the memories and visions that swirl through my mind when I think on those times, those days, those visits, and those interactions with versions of these same people before me tonight, but I will save them for another time. In the church, before the masses that gathered to share memories, condolences, and prayers, the gleam was elsewhere, and the beauty was in a better place. So, I just tucked those memories away and carried on with the evening. I visited. I cried. I hugged family. I heard stories. I sat, seeking the comfort found in numbers, among my aunts, my cousins, my second-double cousins, and the others somehow related but beyond my scope of properly defining their relations with appropriate lineage terminology.

May 22, 2013

Fast-forwarding through several hours, after sleep, after breakfast, after a visit to the farmlands, after the service, and even after the committal, I was standing out behind The People’s Church next to the burial plot as the Pastor finished the proceedings in prayer. I had family all around me, an aunt on my left arm, and aunt on my right arm, and my mother and my uncle directly in front of me. The prayer ended and I lifted my bowed head and opened my watery eyes. I looked around and for a second or two those who had gathered did not move. Silence prevailed and movement was scarce. Then, as if put in motion by something greater than himself, my Uncle Lloyd turned and just started greeting the dozens of family members and friends who had gathered throughout the little cemetery. He went to every single person. I stood among my aunts, cousins, and second-double cousins, and quietly, I waited.

Finally, my Uncle Lloyd approached me. We stood face-to-face on the soft, uneven, grass of the rain-soaked hillside. Again, every one else seemed to disappear and I heard no other sounds. Standing before me was this man who I revered more than he knows. Actually, maybe only my mother would have an idea as to how much he means to me. This day, there was no doubt, and we both welcomed the opportunity to share a manly hug. I said the only words I could say before emotions rendered my voice-box useless, “I love you.” He hugged me and said a few words to me that I will hold to myself. Simple words, simply stated, a few times, and they meant more to me than all the words I could ever write in description of knowing him for my entire life, right through to that moment. We parted and he made his way up the gradual slope toward the church and another gathering that I will also, some day describe. For now, I will just sit and treasure these moments too. Again, I bow my head and say a prayer. A prayer for him, a prayer for me, and a memory made between a couple of hugs. Amen.

Generation Jumping

This weekend I drove my parents to New Brunswick, Canada, where my mom was born and raised. The trip was planned, and made, to visit with my Aunt Janette who is currently sick with cancer, in the hospital. We arrived in Woodstock late Friday afternoon and visited with family throughout the evening and even into the wee hours of the morning. Another aunt of mine, a second double cousin, and I stayed at one of my mother’s double cousin’s house. My parents stayed with another of her double cousins. If you are not familiar with the term ‘double cousin’, it goes something like this. A long time ago three brothers married three sisters … the definition: A set of brother and sister married a set of brother and sister, so their children will be double cousins (meaning they’ll be cousins with the same people on both their mother and father’s sides). Not only that, two of the families actually lived on the same farm for a while, but that’s a story for another time. Continue reading

Our loss. Heaven’s gain.

This is an update to a post I published back on October 6th.

On October 11th, my family and our church family lost another dear friend. Rev. Lafayette Pinckney passed away on October 11th. Although I was very young when I met the Pinckney family I certainly do remember them. I have read some comments written in the social media recently that are touching and come from a perspective far closer than mine. If I was given just one word to describe Rev. Pinckney based on my memory of 35 years ago, it would be warm. His smile just made you feel better, even if he wasn’t smiling at you. I remember my parents telling me when I was a boy, that there was a different look in the eyes of someone who was happy and living for Christ. I haven’t thought about those words in many years, but it certainly would be true of Rev. Pinckney and also of Nancy Ross. As I get older, my guess is that there will be more wonderful people, with tremendous legacies that I will remember here.

My memory is pretty foggy on the details but I am pretty sure we did a nice Sunday dinner at the Pinckney’s house when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. I have some images that come to my mind, but mostly I just remember it was a lot of fun. I also remember when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade at Calvary Christian School, and I went into the classroom for the first day of school, I was so disappointed that Tana and Rena (his daughters) weren’t in my grade. I guess I didn’t fully understand how the grades thing worked. I mean, after all, I was friends with them in church and Sunday school, why shouldn’t we be in the same grade too?

I haven’t spoken to anyone in the family since I was a kid. My prayers are with the entire family. Based on the things I have been able to read, it would seem Rev. Pinckney prepared his family well for these times. It would also seem that our Heavenly Father prepared him just as well. For a week ago, he toiled here with us, and now our loss is heaven’s gain.

Original post: 10/6/2011 for Nancy Ann Ross (Witham)

My family lost a dear friend earlier this week. An old friend, one I haven’t seen in many years. Growing up, this woman and her family went to our church. For the last many years they have lived down south. I was helping my mother find obituary information over the last 24 hours so we could send flowers and such. I came across the information earlier this morning and forwarded it to my mom, after calling her to tell her I found it.

Before I called my mom though, I read through the obituary, I saw the picture provided for the article, and it took me back, maybe 30 years. I shed a few tears looking at her picture because even though she was older, I could see that face, always on the verge of a smile. More people than we would care to admit look at people and listen, waiting for the drama or the trouble. Somehow feeling better themselves to hear of others’ troubles. Not this woman though, her face always was ready to smile or laugh, and her eyes anxiously awaited the humor in almost everything. I saw those things even in the picture provided to the newspapers. I know she was quite sick and not herself towards the end of her life here on earth, and for that I hope sincerely that the family will remember her in a light different from her final weeks. I am sure they will. She and her family were always wonderful to me and my family. This week, our loss is surely heaven’s gain.