How Good and Pleasant

I grew up in a family of four brothers. Three of us, and our wives, just finished spending the weekend together.

Our family has always been close – thankfully, no major drama or fights. I’m very grateful for that, and I think my brothers would say the same. And in spite of the fact that we used to squabble and fuss as kids, since we became adults, we all pretty much like each other, and enjoy each other’s company.

But still, it’s easier to stay apart than get together. That’s no one’s fault – it’s just the way it is. We grew up in Southeast Texas, between Beaumont and Orange, and our dad still lives in the home we grew up in. But I live in Abilene now. One of us lives in Lewisville, north of Dallas. The other two live north of Houston, in the Spring/Tomball area. We all have jobs, kids, in-laws; some have kids that are married now, and some have grand-babies starting to come along.

So, all of that to say, we are all very busy, as just about everyone is these days.

But this past January, when we were all together and doing some work at our dad’s house, we talked about finding a way to try and gather for a weekend. After a lot of emails and text messages, we found there wasn’t a perfect time to make it happen, but we settled on a date that seemed like the best compromise with the fewest conflicts and said, “Y’all come.”

BuffaloUnfortunately, one of our brothers and his wife couldn’t join us this time, and we missed them, but the rest of us had a great time. We talked and laughed and grilled hamburgers. And talked. And laughed. And we reminisced about our childhood and shared memories and swapped lies, and played ping-pong and dominoes, and made chicken and dumplings with a recipe that was pretty close to our grandmother’s version. And we went to church together and had communion together. And talked. And laughed.

And – we began making plans to do it all again, next year.

Families matter. So let me respectfully suggest that you get together with yours. Pick a date, pick a location, send the word. Those who can be there, please don’t have any anger against those who can’t, and those who can’t shouldn’t harbor any resentment against those who can. Keep it simple, and have fun.

How many times have we all stood around at funerals and said, “Gee, it’s a shame someone has to die for everyone to drop what they’re doing and come together. We should plan a family reunion sometime.” Unfortunately, that’s as far as it gets sometimes.

As for me, I’m looking forward to the next time our bunch can do this. We’re busy trying to pick a location and set a date for 2016. We’re going to plan it far enough out so that everyone can come this time, including kids, grandkids, in-laws, out-laws, and the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle.

It will be here before we know it.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Mom

Last September, I wrote a tribute to my mom on the anniversary of her passing, and with the reader’s kind permission, I would like to re-post that article today in honor of her birthday. She was born July 7, 1937, and was always somewhat pleased about having so many “Lucky 7s” on her birthday – 77-37.

So here are some recycled thoughts about my mom, presented with love. Thanks for reading. And if you still can, give your mom a call, just because.

“Thanks, Mom”
(Reposted from September 25, 2013)

100_0190Three years ago today, I lost my mom.  But in all the ways that count, she has never left me, or our family.

Friday, September 24, 2010, started like any other day.  Mom and Dad had gone to Beaumont from their home in Orangefield for an eye appointment, then they stopped at one of their favorite restaurants for lunch: IHOP.  As they were heading home, Mom said that she needed to use the bathroom, but she dropped her keys as she was trying to unlock the front door.  She had already had the stroke that would claim her life.

Dad called the ambulance, and the EMTs promptly arrived.  (The house is out in the country, so thank goodness for enhanced 911 service!)  She ended up at Baptist Memorial in Beaumont.

One by one, my brothers and I, along with other family, arrived as soon as we could get there – in my case, about 3:30 Saturday morning.  The nurses were great, and the doctor was as gentle as he could be later as he explained that this was a “terminal brain event.”

One of my brothers had been on a mission trip to Guatemala, helping drill a water well for a village that needed a new source of good water.  Flights in and out of Central America have a somewhat loose connection to scheduled times, but he was able to get out on time – less than an hour before a Gulf hurricane came ashore, and shut everything down for three days.  He and his wife set a new record getting from the Houston airport to Beaumont.

An hour later, Mom was gone.  Personally, I think she was just waiting on her boys to all get there before she left.  One by one, we got to say our goodbyes, kiss her, hold her hand, and let her go.  It was Saturday, September 25, 2010.

There were so many wonderful friends who supported us, at the hospital, with their cards and visits, and so much sharing of food, of laughs, of tears, of memories.  My brothers and I got to preach her funeral, and that was a special time.  The funeral procession was over a mile long going out to the cemetery.  And even the funeral director felt the need to comment publicly at the graveside about what a remarkable woman she was.

IMG_0001Here’s mom on her wedding day, and 50 years later, at the church, during their golden anniversary reception, visiting with her dear friend Mary Russell.

Garison's 50TH aniversary 065

Dad has been so strong and brave.  He has learned to live by himself (well, along with his faithful canine companion, Chica), in spite of falling almost two years ago and breaking his leg, which has left him in a wheelchair.  I know that he misses her terribly, but he is determined to carry on and make her proud.

christmas06This is one of my favorite snapshots of mom – it’s from Christmas about 2006, with a whole big, rowdy bunch of us crammed into their small kitchen, and her directing traffic and enjoying the chaos and noise of our family.  And that’s not even all of us.

IMG_0004

Here’s Mom, from about 1959, I’d guess.  That’s her with my brother Buzzy, and yours truly, displaying the blazer, bow tie and cowboy boots that the well-dressed young man was evidently wearing that year.

I still hear her voice in my head, and desperately wish we could have had more time together, but I’m thankful for many things.  And so much of what she taught me, that I still hold on to today.

  • I learned to love God’s Word from the countless Bible stories that she read to us every night.
  • IMG_0041I learned to be passionate about worship from hearing her strong, clear alto voice as she boldly sang out.
  • I learned to serve others by watching the way that she volunteered at church and in the community.  (That’s her, in her hospital volunteer uniform.)
  • I learned to respect people who were different by the way she would never let us use hurtful words, even in jokes.
  • I learned to cherish the moments we have with family and friends, to laugh a lot, to forgive from the heart, and to say “I love you,” and always give “just one more hug.”

Because you never know when you won’t be able to any more.

TwoDollarBill