Plans to have everyone in our family together for our Golden Wedding Anniversary in the summer of 2020 didn’t materialize due to the rise of the pandemic. We were hoping it could have happened last Christmas (2021), but it turned out COVID 19 was still with us, and other factors (including extreme cold weather during the holiday season) made it impossible and impractical for us to meet. Finally, this year, it was possible for all 21 of us to be together for a brief couple of days just after Christmas. So we took the opportunity, of course, for a family photo!
It wasn’t real formal, but at least we were all there, each of our children’s spouses and families grouped together on either side of us. Heather, our eldest, her husband Josh, and their four–Chloe, Jolie, Brynna, and Roan–are on the far right of the photo. The next oldest, our son, Mike, his wife Vanessa, and their two children–Link and Hazel–are immediately to Carolyn’s right. Our third, Leanne and her husband Ryan, and their two–Stella and Isaak–are on the far left. And our youngest, Heidi and her husband, Nathan, and their three children–Gideon, Floyd, and Mavis–are to my immediate left. The eleven grand-children, at the time of the photo, range from 4 (Isaak) to 22 (Chloe), or from pre-school to a university graduate. Chloe is taking a year out to work at her mother’s family law firm. One of the twins, Jolie, is in her second year at U Vic studying theatre, her sister, Brynna, is working in food services in Calgary. The rest (except for Isaak who is in preschool) are all at various stages of their elementary, junior and senior-high education programs.
Of course, we are very proud of each of our children’s achievements and personal accomplishments, as well as those of each of their spouses. They are all professionals in their own right, using their talents to serve the communities in which they live–law and business (Heather and Josh), technology and management (Mike and Vanessa), music and finance (Leanne and Ryan), art and music education (Heidi and Nathan). Besides their professional careers, each has special personal interests ranging from running marathons to gourmet cooking, from strength fitness training to painting, from travel to reading, and from music education to performance. And these accomplishments and achievements also extend to the lives of the grandchildren–bouldering (or wall-climbing), musical development of many kinds, craft-making, drawing, disc golf, gymnastic, theatrics, hospitality, chess, soccer, and video game expertise. It’s amazing to see how each one’s skill and interests are developing.
I am writing about family in this blog because being together again like this has reminded me just how important it is to have and to share in the life of family. It’s not that our family experience has been stellar, for like all families, we certainly have had our share of differences. Yet, when it comes right down to it, I’m sure we would all agree that the relationship we have with one another is one of the most important experiences in the world. Especially as the years have passed, I think we all feel that we need each other’s recognition, encouragement, and support more than ever. Having been geographically separated from our children for quite a number of years (until recently), as parents, the connection and support we receive from our children is deeply appreciated and especially meaningful to us at this time in our lives.
Though there is much that is challenging about living in close relationship with others, it’s not surprising that there is a special bond that develops from having been born and nurtured in the love that originally came into being between a set of parents. The most basic social unit on earth is that which has come to be called, the nuclear family. It is there that human life takes shape both physically and psychologically. It is there that humans learn the most basic elements of life and relationship. It is there that they learn to experience human culture based on the well-articulated (or unconscious) values which parents hold to be important. Children grow up to take their place in the world in the midst of a whirlwind of activity all determined by the value commitments of parents (as well as, often uncontrolable circumstances). And before you know it, they’ve been launched to find their way and to begin their own cycle of relationship-building and family existence.
Sometimes, especially these days, Carolyn and I pause to look at one another and ask how we got to this place in our lives–an extended family that includes 21 lives in various places of development (including, of course, our own). On one hand, we feel overwhelmed with a huge sense of gratitude and appreciation for the beauty and goodness that has emerged from the love that began in our hearts for one another so many years ago. On the other hand, we are deeply humbled by the sense that there is so much yet to complete in the way we originally envisioned and hoped.
Of course, we realize that the ideal we often have in mind is distorted by so many deficiencies in our own lives and in human nature. Increasingly, we recognize that we are greatly limited in knowledge and wisdom to know and see all that the grand scheme of things includes. But we have faith to believe that there is a grand scheme. For, by grace, we have come to the profound conclusion that God exists and that He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him, as it says in Hebrews 11:6. So, like Abraham (whom the chapter goes on to describe), we keep looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10).
We are immensely proud and thankful for the wonderful family God has given to us! We aren’t able to choose everyone’s way (certainly a good thing), so we can’t control outcomes for everyone. But we do know that God has been very good to us to give us the family He has, and we also know that He wants us to make the most of this gift, to receive His love through it in all the ways that we can, and to do everything we can to continue to invest in it for the sake of eternity.