Tuesday, December 16, 2008

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A Legacy Of Love

If you had a choice at the end of your years, what is the most valuable thing that you could pass on as an inheritance to your children? Money? Well, our Mom and Dad did leave us that. Mama died at the age of seventy-five of congestive heart failure. She had left each of us a monetary sum and then some of her personal items to be divided as we chose. We all gathered together after she passed away. Now I know that things don’t always go too smoothly among family members when parents depart, and it is time to decide who is going to receive what. The way Mama’s jewelry was divided among us girls is a real testimony to our parents and the values that they had instilled in us. Sometimes the things you pass on to your children can be taught by example, both good and bad. As the three of us passed around Mama’s jewelry, it went like this. Phyllis got Mama’s beautiful flower shaped diamond pendant because Gail and I both felt that she would be the one most likely to wear and truly appreciate it. I got her diamond ring band and diamond dinner ring because one sister already had hers, and the other one was given the engagement ring. I took the diamond necklace because I did not have one and the others did. At the time, we thought the necklace was just a pretty piece of costume jewelry. We didn’t learn till years later that it was real diamonds. The important thing was not that it was real diamonds, but that it was our Mama’s. And so went the decisions so easily and without any greediness among any of us.

When our Daddy passed away, everything was decided in much the same manner. All of us received a generous amount of money, or the equivalent, as well as many other possessions that were passed down. For my personal family, it meant that we were provided the financial freedom to look around and decide where we would really like to live. That is when we moved to Lakeland, FL and found our cozy house just five minutes from my sister Gail and her husband Phil. Now, wouldn’t Mama and Daddy just be thrilled about that?

Material possessions are nice, and I would never wish to belittle the importance of the material gifts that were left to any of us. However, the true value is in the memories that the things represent. Walking into our home, a stranger might look around and find appreciation for the esthetic value of some of our possessions. But to us, we look around and see a home that holds bits, pieces, and, more importantly, memories of loved ones that have gone on before us. You see Mama and Daddy in our bedroom and dining room furniture. Looking further will bring forth images and parts of the lives of Rick’s side of the family, Phil’s Mom, Billy, Ampfield and Irving, our children’s godparents, and so many others. Once again, things that are pleasing to the eye, but oh so much more valuable because of who they belonged to and the loving memories attached to each one.

Again, I reiterate that things are nice. But more importantly is the love that they represent. Growing up, all of us were given a sense of value of family. For Rick and I, later on after our marriage, our vacations meant traveling from one family member to another. This meant hours of driving on long trips for my husband. Thank the Lord, he was so willing and truly loved being with family as much as I did. Many times, as we went from one family member to another, it was as if we were a big pitcher into which family love and memories were being poured and stored, memories and lessons that would serve to make our lives richer. Growing up, our parents planted the seeds of a faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I can remember going to church and revival meetings even at the early age of four. I was so captivated by the message of a loving God who wanted to give each of us the gift of salvation through His Son Jesus who paid the price to set us free. Free to choose to receive Him and believe, or to reject Him and be separated from the love of God for eternity. The message was so real that He was always an integrated part of my life, though I would not ask Him to be my personal Lord and Savior until many years down the road. The seed of the gift of faith was planted so that it could take root and grow. That is one of the true blessings of being a Christian. One does not have to wait until death to enter into heaven. Becoming one of God’s children in the here and now has the added blessing of entering into a small part of heaven while here on Earth. Heaven is a vocation, or calling. Now we see in part, as in a mirror, until we enter into the extension of eternity to the rest of our real life with Him face to face in the glorious Kingdom of God.

Our parents left each of us with the blessing of shared love with our brothers and sisters and their spouses. I really don’t care for the term “in-laws”, for that makes me feel like there is some kind of wall of separation held in that context. I prefer to think of my in-laws as additional brothers and sisters “adopted” into the family through marriage. We are all getting up in our years now. My oldest brother, Jimmy is 75 and my youngest brother, Dave is 55. I’m now 65 and my sisters, Gail and Phyllis are between Jimmy and I. For the past few years, we brothers and sisters have all managed to get together down here in Florida. Those visits with each other are so very special and blessed. Everyone takes part in producing yummy dishes of food that are consumed at the dinner table each night. Each dish is infused with an extra portion of love for all to enjoy.

Music was always a vital part of our family. I can’t imagine not having the fun of our voices combined in some melodic strain with the additional pleasure of one or more instruments. My husband, Rick, played a pretty big part in that. When we dated, he would bring his guitar down and serenade me, or we would sing duets together. He even taught me some chords, which I applied when playing a four-string guitar. I never did learn to play the piano in any accomplished manner, but I did have fun with what I could manage to do. It was Rick that taught Dave, my younger brother, and then our sons, Rickie and Shawn, their first guitar chords. Eventually, they went off on their own and became very accomplished in their talents of playing and singing. Our oldest son, Rickie has a very sweet voice that I love to hear when he can be coaxed into joining in on the music. Lisa, our daughter loves music and also sings and enjoys joining in on the fun. Dave even has his own music studio and produces CDs professionally. And now the next generation is continuing on with the legacy of love of music. Music has added much joy and happiness to our lives and has planted gardens of melodies within our hearts.

You know, as I look back on our lives growing up, I think our legacy of love of family began back when we were little. Each year, when possible, we went “home” to my Grandmother’s house in Waycross, GA. I would not exchange any amount of money for those wonderful times when her house was filled with the joy and laughter of all the aunts, uncles, cousins all seated around Grandmama’s big dining room table. I guess that’s why Rick and I always chose to use any vacation time to travel to be with family.

Anything else would have been a waste of time. You know what is really funny? For our honeymoon we only had one night, for we had to get back to work on Monday. We have talked about it since, and said that if we had it to do over again, we would have preferred to stay at home to visit with family and then go home to be together in the coziness of our newly established apartment.

Our Mama and Daddy had problems in their relationship with one another. However, through it all they did live out a true commitment to one another and to their children and grandchildren. Mama was the one that I could talk with about anything, except matters concerning sex. That was because things like that were not talked about in the era in which she was raised. For that I had to go to my sister, Gail. She always filled me in on that subject, and in a good and healthy way whenever I asked her. Other than that though, Mama and I were close and I felt I could talk freely with her. Mama could get hard to deal with during her problem times, but isn’t that something that could be said about each of us. For me, Daddy was rather austere, so going to him to talk things over was not something I did as a general rule. I know some of my other brothers and sisters did not feel this same way, so that could have very well been a problem of my own perception of him that affected our relationship. Mama was the one that enveloped you with her showers of kisses and hugs. My sister, Gail, most recently described her hugs so vividly as “marshmallow hugs” one could just melt into. Daddy was the strong provider and protector. As he grew older, he was freer with the giving of hugs and kisses too. Showing his tender side was more difficult and did not come so naturally as it did with Mama. Receiving and giving open affection for one another is a valuable treasure in my life. My Mama once told my future husband, when we were dating, “You had better be willing to give Ginger a lot of affection, for she needs it.” I wasn’t sure at the time whether that was supposed to be a positive or negative comment about me. But regardless of how it was meant, it was very true. I can say without a doubt, that I have been blessed with the most loving and affectionate husband. He fits right in with my family and showing tenderness and loving affection for others is a natural essence within him.

The dysfunctional part of our parent’s relationship could have a devastating effect on us and upon each other. Yet, somehow, in spite of those times, the love that emanated from them truly demonstrated the adage that “love covers a multitude of sins.” I believe that our development into the kind of individuals that we are is due in part to both the negative and the positive that came from them. Proving once again, that it is not necessarily what happens to us, but how we choose to respond, that is more important in the molding of the fiber of our being. We can choose to be a victim of our circumstances, or we can choose to learn from them and become a stronger person perhaps even because of the trials and tribulations of life. It’s this learning process that clarifies the meaning of the scriptures (Rom. 5:3,4) “..we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.”

For me, heaven has begun here on Earth because of the wonderful family love that we have been privileged to be a part of. I pray that somehow, someway my own children can know that same kind of blessing with one another. I pray that we may all be united through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ that one day all of us can be together for eternity in the presence of the Lord forever and ever. Oh how glorious, to be a part of the music of voices and instruments lifted in singing praises of adoration to our Lord who has made it all possible.

As chords hold the parts of a musical composition together, our family is held together by cords of love that cannot be broken. I cannot fully express my gratefulness to the Lord for blessing me with such a wonderful and loving family. Treasures of this world are fleeting and only for a time. However, the legacy of love is the kind of treasure that is finer than gold. This love is a part of heaven on Earth and can be continued as a part of our eternal treasures in Heaven.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.
That whosoever believeth in Him
Might not perish,
But have life everlasting.”

Virginia Fason Rahn


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