Larry and I returned home happy and exhausted. I had just gone through a lifetime of memories and emotions. This weekend I united with cousins I hadn’t seen for decades. What joy to reconnect and meet some of their offspring. One said it had been forty years since our paths crossed when I had attended his wedding. Am I really that old??? My daddy was the baby of five siblings and my sister and I were still young when my cousins on his side of the family entered adulthood, dispersed and started their families. That seems like another life!

The occasion was my Aunt Anna’s memorial service in Harpers Ferry. She was the last of the five siblings. A widow for over fifty years, she lived alone in her historic West Virginia home until four months before her death at age 96. She was quite a remarkable woman who left a legacy of love and humor in her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and community.

My cousin, Don, a retired Methodist minister, officiated the service. He invited the family to participate in the service by sharing our memories of Aunt Anna. Many laughs and tears were shared as we remembered her sense of humor, care packages and being there for us in tragic times. Five of us cousins lost a parent at young ages, (two being Anna’s children) and Anna had been there for each of us in her inimitable way.

As I gathered my thoughts and walked through memory lane in preparing for this weekend I was struck anew with two thoughts: the brevity of life and the grand family reunion that awaits the family of God.

None of us could grasp how much time had passed since we last saw each other. And when we met and remembered, it seemed like only yesterday. The humor, pain, love and joy all came back as fresh as if it had only been a few months not decades of time.

The words of James 4:14 came to mind, “Why, … You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Have you ever watched your breath appear and vanish on a cold night? In light of eternity, that is how long our fleeting lives last.

One of my cousins shared how he always knew Aunt Anna liked him. She sent cards and care packages directly to him, not just group ones to the family. Inspired by her example, he has started trying to make sure each one of his family knows they matter to him as individuals.

Listening to his words challenged me to consider that the life I live each day is the legacy I am leaving. How will I be remembered? What impact am I having on those I encounter? How do I want to be remembered and what must I change now to build that legacy?

After sharing some memories I closed by reading 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.” In times of loss, we do grieve, but not without hope. When my daddy was dying we shared that hope together. We named those who had gone before him and would be greeting him soon. This time it was his turn to greet his beloved sister.

This weekend my aunt’s death provided the opportunity for a special family reunion. Jesus’ death and resurrection has provided the hope of a future family reunion dearer and better than any we can imagine. Have you accepted His invitation to join the family (John 1:12-13, Revelation 3:20)? Will you be part of that grand family reunion with me? That is a hope worth holding on to.


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  1. Don Woeltjen

    Hi Dearest:

    How true your message is to anyone who is ready to listen. This past week-end we all experienced something very special for an occasion, not focused on death, but life. Saul, through a medium, brought back Samuel. Peter, James and John saw Moses and Elijah. Lazarus was brought back to life and Jesus told the theif on the cross He would see him in paradise that very day. Of course, Jesus’ resurrection is the exclamation mark to the Gospel story.

    I knew this wonderful story and believed everything Jesus said, so I thought. When Chip was born with severe club feet and with little prospects of him being normal, I became angry with God. I left the church for seven years feeling I didn’t need Him. Oh, how wrong I was. When I “Came to my senses” and turned toward Him I could hear the words “Bring the robe, the ring, the slippers.” Life has been a dance, with Him, ever since.

    It doesn’t matter how close we imagine someone is with our Lord, there is always that chance they may fall away and fail to trust His Grace. Personal hurts are so powerful. Those, like you, know the hurt. Praise God you know the healing. Again, your messages will reach ones where “You Can Only Imagine.”

    Loving you,


  2. Susie Browne

    Thanks, Debbie, for sharing your thoughts. I’m challenged to think about how I live my life today(the legacy I’ll be leaving behind) and encouraged by the hope of the grand family reunion that awaits us in heaven.

  3. Sandy Phillips Conklyn

    Thank you, Debbie, for putting into beautiful, meaningful words what I too, am feeling about the weekend reunion. Like my mother I was active in the Church during my growing up and early adult years. Since then, when I think about it, Mom was really my spiritual guide. Like her, I do a lot of praying and giving thanks and try to be a good person. I’m not by any means a bible scholar so appreciate very much the gift of the passages you and Don have given us – as well as the gifts of your insight and hope. Thank you. I love you.

  4. Hap

    A beautiful, eloquent recap of our weekend together. Thank you.

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