My great-uncle, Griggs Rose (my family was giving children last names as first names long before it was trendy!), was 72 years old and had lived in the same area his whole life. He was one of six children. (One of his older sisters was my maternal grandmother.) He had been married to his wife, Joyce, for 45 years; had one daughter, Page; and was a Granddaddy to August Pearl. He was the kind of man people call "salt of the earth." Everyone knew they could count on Griggs to do what he said he would do, to be where he said he would be, and then some. The visitation at the funeral home was packed for almost four hours, and his funeral was standing room only.
When my grandmother died at the age of 55 back in 1986, there were two jam-packed visitations and standing-room-only funerals for her - one at each end of the state of Alabama. She loved people, and - like Uncle Griggs - she loved the Lord. She could always be counted on for a joke (although she usually forgot part of it), and somehow she managed to know all of the latest news without even the slightest hint of malicious gossip. She loved going to the grocery store and always dressed for the occasion, hoping to run into lots of friends and getting caught up right there in the canned goods aisle. When it came to my Granddaddy, she was the epitome of Proverbs 31:12, "She does him good and not evil all the days of her life."
I could tell similar stories about their brother and sisters, George, Margie, Gloria, and June.
All of my extended family that was within driving distance came to Uncle Griggs' funeral. There were representatives from each of the families of the six Rose siblings, including the two remaining sisters themselves. We all hugged, laughed, cried, and talked just like we do every year on Christmas night. No one refused to sit by someone else. No group of cousins was mad at another group of cousins. Nobody was comparing the size of flowers they had sent to those of anyone else. We were a cohesive unit. Even though I see most of them very seldom, there is not a doubt in my mind that each of them would "have my back" in a time of crisis.
I take it for granted that all families are like this. But I know it's not true. The Roses are an odd bunch!
So what makes Roses different?
1. They know and love the Lord. There really is nothing else on earth that can bind a group together like this. It's having a common purpose on earth, and a common destiny after death. It also means extending that same love to those in the family who may not know or follow Him.
2. Divorce is very rare. We are not a perfect family with perfect marriages. Divorce has touched our family just as it has everyone else's, but it is the exception rather than the rule. When we say, "'til death do us part," we really mean it. Also, family members build up marriages rather than chip away at them. My grandmother famously took my Daddy's side whenever my parents had an argument. She thought Steve Pearson hung the moon, and I'm sure that helped my Mom to feel that same way.
3. Getting together is a priority. Much of the extended family lives in the same town and sees each other from time to time during the year. But we all come together on Christmas night. This has been a tradition since long before I was born, and I've only missed a few of these since marrying David. There's also usually a pool party at Uncle Milton's house sometime during the Summer. It's really not about the quantity of time spent together. It's more because we enjoy each other's company so much when we are together.
Can I guarantee that all of this will continue once my mother's generation is unable to host get-togethers? No, I can't. But I hope that it will. My siblings and I are among the most "far-flung," geographically, so honestly it will depend a lot on the cousins who are still in central north Alabama.
Like a true Rose garden, the original bush may eventually wither away. But hopefully by then it will have been propagated into similar family trees in different areas. I look forward to spending time with my siblings, and my children look forward to Pearson Cousins' Camp all year long! I want my children to enjoy being with each other long after David and I are gone. I would love to know that - someday, somewhere - there will be Baggett get-togethers that are just as beloved. (Tip for future family members: it helps when there are a plethora of casseroles and desserts from which to choose at these events!)
If your family is nothing like mine, can I encourage you in this way? It's not too late to create your own. I've written about my "blood kin" today, but families don't have to actually be related. I just left a group of people in Fort Smith that I would also consider Family. We loved each other, enjoyed spending time together, and supported one another. Psalm 68:6 says that God "sets the lonely in families." This doesn't always have to do with bloodlines. God is The Expert at creating something out of nothing. I know He would love nothing more than for you to become part of His family if you are not already. And as the creator of the family back in Genesis, He is still able to create one for you here on earth.