What this year’s family reunion taught me – 52 weeks

Ruthie Gray Uncategorized 11 Comments

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“For you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.  Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward, for you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”  Hebrews 10:34-36  


     Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve attended my family reunion on Memorial Day Weekend.  Perfectly manicured lawns, lush peonies, a shelter with picnic tables, and the old family cemetery complete the setting of our yearly gathering. 

     My great grandma had 11 kids.  ELEVEN.  My grandma Glenva (everyone called her “Glenvie”) held reigning title as the oldest sibling. (She was also my inspiration for the cooking side of this blog.)

     After all the youngins’ grew up and had families of their own, someone decided it would be a good idea to get these characters together on a regular basis.  By the time I came along, this had been going strong for years, and I was born in the 60’s.  I grew up never giving it a second thought, knowing that every year on that Sunday, mom, dad and I would be missing church and attending our family reunion in Gay, WV.  And we NEVER missed church.  And yes, I said “Gay, WV”.  Once, in the early 90’s, a bunch of Gay citizens got together and tried to lobby to change the name.  Said it was giving their town a bad rep.  After a few months they realized the older folk weren’t going for it and nobody felt like changing their address stamps anyhow so it all blew over and the town stayed Gay.

     As a child, I derived great joy from the reunion.  My cousin Niki and I got to go walk on top of all the dead people (for which grandma and mom severely berated us – “Don’t walk in front of the grave, only behind it”), read all the names of relatives that had gone on to glory, and then skip across the road to the farm and visit the pig sty, pet the kittens, and admire whatever new animal that had been added to the collection.  Sometimes we even got to milk the cows.

     As you can imagine, we had many excellent cooks amongst us, dinner being a sumptuous fare featuring/58+9 all the favorites such as Aunt Elenor’s coconut cream pie and Aunt Dorothy’s strawberry pies.  I say “pies” because when everyone was just about done going back for seconds and thirds and most of Elenor’s coconut cream pie was gone, the announcement rang out. “STRAWBERRY PIE!” Aunt Dorothy headed out of her house and down the steps, a pie in each hand.  “STRAWBERRY PIE!!!!” The call echoed, more of the aunts joining in.  Because not just two strawberry pies.  Because 9 or10 strawberry pies.  More than enough for everyone to have a piece – or maybe two!  And oh, they were YUM.

     Family humor added another dimension.  Like the time Aunt Ruby (who was a little bit round) was sitting on one side of the picnic table and two cousins across from her got up at the same time.  Down went Aunt Ruby in her cat eye glasses and over flopped the table on top of her.  Luckily, one of the nearby uncles jumped to the rescue and caught the table before it did any damage to poor Aunt Ruby.  And boy, did we laugh.  On another occasion, I wasn’t paying attention while standing on third base during the softball game  (because let’s face it, I HATED sports and thought it was stupid to play them at the fun family reunion) and Cousin Dee Dee blazed through first, second, and WHAM!!! Knocked me flat on my rear, my legs straight out in front of me.  Cousin Dee Dee was serious about her sports.  Actually, she was Aunt Ruby’s granddaughter, so maybe it ran in the genes that you either fell or caused a fall at the family reunion.

     When my grandma unexpectedly died, all my great aunts and uncles came to mourn her loss and offer comfort.  I remember sitting beside Aunt Dorothy and listening to her express how much grandma loved me.  They rallied round us – I felt the love, I tell you.

    This past year, we lost four family members.  The first was my mom’s only brother.  He attended the reunion last year, although his cancer had advanced so much that he used a wheelchair.  He died one week later.  We lost more of the original eleven – 2 uncles passed within two weeks of each other.  A cousin suddenly left us with no warning two weeks ago. She was a daughter of one of the uncles we lost.

                                              The three remaining siblings.

     For this reason, the reunion took on a different dynamic this year.  We felt our losses greatly, and sought to give emotional support to the immediate families at the cemetery. 

     I had a conversation with Cousin Sonny on the topic.  “I’m not afraid to die.  That doesn’t scare me.  I’m afraid of suffering, though.”

     You know what?  I am afraid to die.


    I have a better and enduring possession which I can embrace with confidence.

     I will see my loved ones again.  Grandma Glenva and my Papaw Rudie.  Uncle Charlie, Uncle Edsel, Uncle Edgar, Cousin Patty, and many more.

     And I will see my Savior.

     Because I have a great reward coming – just like they did.

     I’m gonna receive that promise. 

     That’s what Cousin Sonny was referring to when he said he wasn’t afraid to die. 

     You know why I think I get scared?

     Because I forget. I forget to renew my mind of that promise.  And that’s important.

     The Bible says the believer doesn’t sorrow as those who have no hope, because we have the promise.

     This world is not our home.

   “This world is not my home
     I’m just a-passing through
     My treasures are laid up
     Somewhere beyond the blue.
     The angels beckon me
     From heaven’s open door
     And I can’t feel at home
     In this world anymore.

     I have a loving mother
     Just up in Gloryland
     And I don’t expect to stop
     Until I shake her hand.
     She’s waiting now for me
     In heaven’s open door
     And I can’t feel at home
     In this world anymore.”

     Ever heard that old song? 

     I’m going to commit Hebrews 10:34-36 to memory this week in order to renew my mind.  Heaven is for real.  Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. 

     “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:18.

     What about you?  Who are you remembering this Memorial Day Weekend?  Do you have a favorite verse about heaven?

“For you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, KNOWING THAT YOU HAVE A BETTER AND AN ENDURING POSSESSION FOR YOURSELVES IN HEAVEN.  Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, YOU MAY RECEIVE THE PROMISE.”  Hebrews 10:34-36, ESV

Linking up with: 

Holly Barrett

Comments 11

  1. This was great Ruthie.I felt like I was reading a piece of a novel. Such history and memories. Looking at the styles the women wore back then, they all wore dresses and see how much has changed over the years to bring us to your last picture. So much life here. You are very lucky to have family that still wants to spend time together and even through the losses, you can feel the faith and love among everyone. An honored post for this Memorial Day. Thanks for sharing a part of who you are with us. Scriptures say it all too!

  2. The fashions are certainly interesting, aren't they? I love these old pictures, they tell a lot. The bottom picture is my family and I. My uncle's family should have been in the pic as well, but they left before picture time! We take pics of each of my great aunt and uncle's families. Lots of history there. Thanks for your kind words, again, always wonderful to connect with you. 🙂

  3. You are such a storyteller! I wish I could come sit across in your kitchen with a cup of coffee and hear you tell them. First, thank you for visiting my blog and leaving me encouragement. I love your advice about "not getting on the roller coaster" with teens. Such Wisdom.

    I also love "Fix your eyes" and thought you'd enjoy this little bit I heard from a sermon recently:

    He opened with noting that what you anticipate says a lot about you and ended that if we live life joyfully anticipating the coming King, it will be life changing. He also threw out a couple of preacher-man facts that I didn't know. You might already know this, but if not, here's one of his stats:

    Christ's 2nd coming is the most anticipated even in Scripture ~ Referenced 318 times in NT and 1,845 in OT.

    Thanks again for connecting with me. I look forward to reading more of your stories!


  4. Thanks, girl. I'm glad we found one another! If I can help someone out there by telling my stories (especially of child rearing survival) this empty nest thing may turn out to be of some use after all (kidding). I did not know that fact about the second coming – isn't it wonderful we can look forward to something as glorious as that?!

  5. Hi Ruthie … Thanks for coming by and introducing yourself today. Fun! And I love your family reunion story … with those old photos which really are priceless.

    I have wonderful memories of family picnics for many years on Mother's Day Weekend. What a legacy, what a joy!


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