This afternoon I got a chance to spend some time with my cousin, Cathy and her father Ralph. He's 93 years old and in hospice. She's spent the last couple of months there with him, enjoying the final days of her father's life, glad to be a part of whatever it is he still has to offer.
He is an Iowa farmer and has always been proud of the land, his life, his home, his wife, children and now grandchildren.
My memories of him track to the very beginning of my life. He and his wife, Ruth, were members of Dad's first church in Gravity, Iowa and saw Mom and Dad through some rough and interesting times. There are many, many stories that I will never remember, but I'm pretty sure my parents would never have been the people the became if Ralph and Ruth hadn't been there at the beginning to ensure they had a solid start.
Ruth protected Mom from the little old ladies of the church who were sure that they (and only they) knew the right way a young pastor's wife should live her life. When they tried to tell mom when and how she should run the dryer in the parsonage, Ruth backed them down. When Mom had no idea how to cook, clean, sew and run a household with a brand new baby (me), Ruth lovingly taught her what to do. When Dad was unsure of the next steps to take with the people of the church, Ralph and Ruth were there to give him confidence in his decisions ... even when the crazy young preacher decided that the top of the church steeple needed to be painted.
Our family moved away from them after a couple of years and continued to move further away from Dad's home and family as we grew older. Whenever we returned, we were constantly drawn to their home, where love and food and fun were found on a farm.
Cathy and Charles were a few years older than the three of us kids, but took a lot of time with us whenever we there, bringing out toys that would be shared around, wandering around the grand gardens and playing outside with us.
Today was a great time for me to spend with family, to remember a childhood filled with joy, to remember the blessings of a man who worked harder than most men I've known in my life and loved his family and his church. I am so grateful for people like this in my life!