Family funerals – hello, good-bye, see you soon

I said a final farewell to a pair of beloved relatives this week: my father’s identical twin brother, Dave, and his wife, Dorothy. Though they died many months apart, their memorial service waited until relatives could gather.

Gather we did, a collection of Neufeld cousins and friends from as close as five minutes away and as far as two provinces. We met to acknowledge our shared roots. To see what each other looks like now. To catch up on the years we didn’t connect. To reconsider old relationships and how we handled them.

Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Dave both died in their nineties. They lived through financial leanness, family woes, big transitions and major downturns in their health. Remarkably, they never complained. Several speakers at their service mentioned that, and the simple, solid faith in God that made it possible.

My BC brother and sister joined me. Under a kind blue sky dotted with dumpling clouds, we reconnected with our relatives in Lost River, Saskatchewan, the place that first welcomed our grandparents as German immigrants in 1905.

The day became a family reunion. We met on the grounds of Bethany Mennonite church and cemetery where for over a century, past generations of our family have gathered to worship and baptize, marry and bury those who stayed in the region. (And those who, though living far from it, remained inseparable from “the old homeplace” if only in heart.)

“Nana,” said one of the grandbeans, asking how the journey north had gone, “that must have been really sad.”

 “Actually, no! There was a lot of laughing!” my sister Beverly answered. We cousins visited the old homestead and the derelict house where our fathers were born. We roared over each other’s stories of our aunt and uncle. We chuckled over our shared Neufeld noses—broad and ample. We caught up on our life journeys. We located the gravestones of family members, some known, others long before our time. And we considered that one day, somewhere, our own descendants may look for ours and reflect on our own lives.

I’ll travel those same miles again in a few weeks for the service of another beloved Lost River relative, my Aunt Tina. Like Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Dave, God used her, and others of her generation, to show me the kind of faith God loves. A generous faith. A faith that steps into the dark, no matter what may wait there, knowing they could trust God to bring them through it. A simple uncomplicated faith that makes it okay to live though every ordinary and extraordinary day, knowing that Someone else holds it and them in his big hands—and trusting that he knows best.

My generation of Baby Boomers are gradually easing out of the spotlight, off life’s stage. I look to my gentle older relatives for examples of how to do that with grace. And I thank God for the certainty that, sooner than any of us realize, those of us who share their faith, will meet again.

A bunch of Neufeld cousins and siblings, still amazed at the barn Granddaddy built in the 1920s
Uncle Dave and Aunt Dorothy, in their youth. I love this pic!