I want to share a beautiful story with you because I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit and each time I do it makes my heart smile.
I was at the memorial service last week to celebrate the life of one of our church members, Larry, and to support his wife, Elaine. Elaine and Larry had been married close to 50 years and had been attending Rock Bridge long before I moved to Georgia. When I came on staff at our Dalton campus a little over three years ago, they were some of the first volunteers I met. Elaine and Larry would show up to greet every Sunday…even on the Sundays they weren’t “scheduled”. For Elaine and Larry, serving others was/is simply a part of being the church.
One of my favorite things about the memorial service for Larry were all the stories that were shared by those who knew and loved Larry most. I so enjoyed hearing the different memories each family member shared with us. I was given a very tiny snapshot into a person’s life… long before I knew them. I only witnessed the final chapter (three short years) of Larry’s life on earth. At the point in his life that I knew Larry, dementia and frailness had already set in.
Elaine had her “four” sons at the memorial service. Elaine and Larry only had two sons by birth. Her other two sons had been “adopted” into the family years and years ago when her boys were growing up back in the 70s. I actually knew one of her “adopted” sons, Terry. Terry serves on our Coffee Team on Sunday mornings. However, it wasn’t until Larry’s memorial service that I learned how deep the bond was between Elaine and Larry’s family and Terry. He was at their house regularly and would even join them on family outing or trips to and from soccer practice.
A few days following Larry’s memorial service I connected with Elaine again for a few minutes. She needed to pick up some flowers she had left at the church. Again, I told Elaine how much I appreciated all the stories and fun memories her sons had shared. I told her I loved learning of the bond between her family and Terry too. Elaine again shared “Terry is part of our family; he is my son.” She went on to say how back in those days it was still not a very common sight to see black and white families integrate. And then I said, “but you don’t look at the color of someone’s skin, do you Elaine?
“No” she answered. “Eileen, my mom and dad didn’t raise us that way. They taught us right. They taught us how everyone is the same and should be loved the same.”
Elaine then went on and shared a story I will never forget. If I am doing my math right this would have been back in the 1940s. Elaine said when she was a little girl, her family had “help.” It was common to have help in those days. Rosa and her family were their help. Elaine shared how every night her family and their help would sit down around the dinner table… together. Elaine’s mom and dad would make a point of letting their kids know that there was no difference between their family and Rosa’s family. “We are all the same” they would say. Elaine even said when Rosa’s daughter became old enough to go to college she wanted to become a nurse but couldn’t afford to go off to school so Elaine’s mom and dad paid for her education. When Rosa’s daughter graduated in Chicago a few years later, Elaine’s parents traveled to Chicago to attend the ceremony.
I’m not sure how to end this post other than to say that hearing this story filled my heart with so much joy. I love being reminded that there are people who truly live out what is right and who choose to extravagantly love others regardless of what the world, the media, or society might currently be shouting at them.