The graduation was your normal college graduation, excited young people beginning a new chapter and adventure in their lives. So full of hope and promise for all the possibilities the future would unfold. The funeral while a time for saying goodbye to Ralph left me with feelings much like those young graduates, a feeling of hope and promise for what the future holds for our family.
Ralph Long--I've know him my entire life. as the preacher said, he lived a long life in every sense of the word. He was 81 years old, he left a beautiful family as a legacy, he loved the Lord and lived a rich, full life. He and his brother Joe were somewhat iconic in our family. I was only related through their Mother while through their father they were double related to most of their family. Let me explain--my grandma was Erma, she had two siblings-Olive and Glen. Grandma fell in love with Elbert Cassel while Olive and Glen...they fell in love with Paul and Ola who just happened to be siblings...therefor all their offspring would be doubly entertwined. Ralph and Joe were special because they lost their mother when they were young boys...yesterday I heard the story of these two little boys riding in a box car with their daddy, and dead mother and sister in a coffin with them. Can you even imagine? But these boys came back to Oklahoma to be doubly blessed with family who scooped them up, surrounded them with love and turned out two of the finest men our family was blessed to have.
Ralph and Joe gave back to the family nine pretty amazing kids who have in turn begat more kids and more kids!!! This extended family is amazing and I am so crazy blessed to be just a small part. Yesterday at the funeral, my cousin Raymond was talking about some incredible memories he shared with my own Dad, uncle and Ralph and Joe...he shared a sadness that now he is the memory keeper that he has no one to left to ask or double check his accuaracy for his parents are both gone. Of those five "boys," only three are left. Those three are our memory keepers, the ones to share with us the stories which we will have to remember and in turn share.
When we went to the graveside yesterday, I was struck with the incredible rich history it contained!!! It's a small cemetery out in the middle of a field near Verden, Oklahoma. I took Jessica by the hand and led her up the hill to see where her great-grandparents, her great-great grandparents, and may other relatives are buried. I felt that true connection for the first time to my family who is living and past, I felt a sense of urgency that I must get all the memories I can and remember them so they can continue to be shared with those family members who are yet to come.
The generation of my family who is beginning to pass had a beautiful opportunity-their lives were entertwined on a personal level--day by day. They lived close in both proximity and love. Today, I live in Arkansas, my sister and brother in Oklahoma...my cousins are scattered to the north, south, east and west...literally...I have cousins in California, New Hampshire, Alaska and Texas! We don't have the opportunity to see one another and be a part of the day to day lives of one another. While it makes me sad I am so thankful that our world has become a little smaller thanks to social media!!! I would like to see us all use Facebook to it's family potential--let's find one another and introduce our kids to one another so they will know each other and be able to feel this wonderful connection to family.
Today in church, Rick Cato preached on family today and his words ring true to the way the Cassel/Long/McDowell family truly lives, "A family should emulate the character and nature of God. They should be committed to the personhood of EACH member and really care spending time and energy on each member. Not just quality time but quantity time because we need more the affirmation. There is commitment to the GROWTH of each member where gifts are seen, discovered and developed. Most importantly a commitment to God at the center of it all--not on the edge but at the very core. The family is where God is named and known."
I feel oh so crazy blessed to be a part of the McDowell legacy and hope that I can instill in our children exactly what that means so maybe one day when they take their child by the hand and walk that hill they will feel the same sense of rich history that I feel today.