I love traditions. Perhaps my affinity is a result of growing up in a home with few traditions. We did have Dominos pizza every Thursday night for several years, and we went to Jekyll Island every summer for about eight years for a convention for my step-father’s job. I’m not sure those count as traditions.
I think it’s telling that with one exception every guy I have “dated dated” (six guys) has been from an intact, traditional home. Fortunately my extended family does have traditions. Sure it’s just family reunions and a Christmas get-together, and yes, I’ve had to go to those alone on occasion because my immediate family doesn’t get excited about traditions quite like I do, but nevertheless wonderful traditions that have lasted for decades. And since I can remember the family matriarch has been my Aunt Jean. Every year at our Christmas gathering at the cabin she led us in “Silent Night” and welcomed new members of our family. And at family reunions, she ensured that we did more than just eat and leave. She organized skits, handouts, detailed family trees, and the like. She wanted us to know each other—often skipping the superficial conversations that are, in my opinion, too prevalent and asking you to really share who you were and where you were with her. Sure my Sunday afternoons with her often left me feeling exhausted, but they also inspired me.
Aunt Jean’s accomplishments are too long to list, but she was the dean of an amazing liberal arts college and the head of a college psychology department among other positions. That’s extra cool because in “her time” women rarely held those positions. She recently died, and I had the good fortune of attending both her funeral and a memorial service held in her honor last week.
Long story short, Aunt Jean is the best example I have witnessed of someone living a life as Christ would. Several speakers from her funeral and memorial made comments that have stuck with me. One speaker explained that Jean “knew how to give herself away.” Another noted that “You could not know Jean without knowing how special you were to her.” After our visits she always asked me if I knew how much she appreciated our time together. She would often call and thank me for sharing myself with her. And it wasn’t just her family—she gave her time to prisoners, undergraduates, mental patients, and everyone in between. Particularly upon her death I have learned so much more about how she has given herself to others. And financially too—she left a very considerable estate to be given to a Baptist college and her extended family, although she never earned that much money by today’s standards. But she lived frugally and invested wisely.
One last quote from her funeral: “Jean was more concerned with what might be than being right about what might not be.” She looked for the good in people and often found it. She wasn’t worried that she might be wrong about them.
Now I just need to take all of this inspiration and actually act on it! Do any of you have any cool family traditions? One of my favorites was my grandfather’s family’s tradition of reading the Bible together every night. When their mother died when they were young, they asked their father “What are we going to do?” And his reply was “I don’t know, but I do know that we’re going to read God’s word tonight like we always have.” How awesome is that? How comforting.
p.s. I had a nice surprise at the memorial last week when my nieces showed up! Fun!