I have been thinking a lot about family lately. What constitutes a family? Is family related by blood? Do they need to be related through marriage? This is natural since we have been spending so much time with family this year. We have helped Jonathan’s parents pack up their home of 50 years and move to an assisted living facility in a new city and a new province near their son David and his family. I have known the Kuhn family for nearly 40 years. Am I part of the family even if Jon’s mother no longer knows who I am; am I family because I am married to their son Jon; or am I family because I love them and go out of my way to help them and make sure that they are safe? What makes a home? All the material things we accumulate or the love we show each other, the kindness we show to a spouse that no longer knows us and is even down right mean to us?
I buried my Dad on August 28th. I am honored that my mother and sisters asked me to do this. I am relieved that after two and a half years he has finally been buried. This has lifted a great weight off my heart and I feel taller, really, I feel taller. I felt strongly that my father needed to be buried, but my father cherished life and wanted his cremains to be poured in the punch bowl and drank. It wasn’t going to happen, but my sister Marsha challenged me as to whether we were honouring my father’s wishes by not keeping some of his cremains close by. I ended up keeping a small urn of ashes which I hope will be buried when I am. The same week I buried Dad, I was introduced to Ross the new man in my mother’s life. This was hard especially when they asked for my blessing. Of course I give them my blessing. I love my mother and I want her to be happy. She cared for my father through many years of illness. It was not easy, so yes she deserves to be happy. Ross seems to be very nice. I asked him why he likes my mother. He answered that she was willing to do things for and with him. And I see him do things like mow hay for my mother and go to family functions. So when does Ross become family? When they marry? When they live together? Or when they came to care for each other, to love each other, and were willing to do things for each other and attend family functions together, willing to be seen together as a couple? Welcome to the family Ross! Does this mean that I now have three new brothers even if I have not met them, yet?
I feel joy and sadness as I watch my nieces and nephews grow up, take on leadership roles, marry and have children. I will never know what it is like to be a mother and a grandmother, to see my children marry and build families of their own. Does this make me selfish? No, envious, yes, but I am very happy for my mother and my sisters. Welcome to the family Mrs. Kayla Camp, Isla, Colbie and Noah! Jon asked me if this made me feel like my Aunt Agnes who is childless and whose husband died several years ago. An interesting question as I wonder who will look out for Jon and I when we get old, but I see my Aunt surrounded by friends, family, neighbours and church members who look after her. She may get lonely at times, but she is not alone and we are her family. Is the man who lives with my niece, works and pays the bills, who loves and respects her, and who is the father of their child family? Are the niece and nephew who married with no mention of God truly married and family? Yes in that they have made a commitment to each other, love and care for each other and their children; they cannot be denied, they are family.
Was Jesus really negative towards the family? When told that his family was looking for him, he replied that those with him were his mother and his brothers, that whoever does the will of his father in heaven is his brother and sister and mother. (MT12:46-50) When a potential disciple asked to wait until he had buried his father, Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their own.” Or when another asked to say good-bye to his family, Jesus said no. (LK9:57-62) Wow! That sounds insensitive. And yet we are told that Jesus honored his father and his mother, that Jesus and his disciples attended weddings and that Jesus did not approve of divorce. So many questions, so much to think about, to pray about, but I give thanks for Jon, my birth family and the extended Sutherland family, for the Kuhn family and for St. James’ and my family in Christ. God bless you every one!
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Rev. Darlene Kuhn,
A word from Mother Darlene