Coming from a huge family is a wonderful thing. Even when the members don’t live close together and don’t get to spend a lot of time together, there is a bond of blood unlike any other. There are weddings, births and happy moments to share. In the midst, there are also the sad moments that must be faced together.
This week my mother’s oldest brother, Robert Hamlin, passed away. A death is always a cause for reflection about that person and our own mortality. To repeat an old mountain saying, “If time lasts long enough, we all have to go…”
In thinking about Uncle Robert, I could only remember good things. I’m sure his life was full of challenges and difficulties, just like everyone else’s. What I remember most about him was his incredible work ethic decades after he had served in the military and completed a full work history that entitled him to a retirement from a major auto manufacturing factory in Michigan.
Back in Kentucky, he and his wife Elizabeth bought property and built their dream home by hand. They used logs from their own land, and rocks from the creeks. The log cabin they produced was truly a show place. The house and property were spectacular and the grounds were always immaculate. They gardened, canned food, walked for miles each day when the weather allowed, and explored the mountains on four-wheelers.
The three of us walked to Knobby Rock when Robert was 87. Anyone who has ever been there knows what a major accomplishment that was for anyone. He didn’t even seem winded when we reached the top. A couple of years later, I rode with him and Elizabeth up the back road to Hensley Settlement in their six-wheeler. He straddled eroded gullies deep enough for a man to stand in with all the confidence of someone who has done it all before. It was quite an adventure. Another time they took me to the top of the mountain where the rocks were full of sea shells. Another adventure took us down beside the Cumberland River through the back country.
He was a God lover, hard worker, adventurer, explorer, builder, devoted husband, loving father, handsome, smart and a good man. Everything I could think of to describe him is positive.
When we are living, maybe we don’t think about it very much, but I wonder if we would all be better off if we did care what others will say about us after we are gone. When we are gone and can’t hear a word that anyone says, maybe what actually matters most is how they will remember us and what words they will use to describe us. The truth is, we mostly describe people by what they meant to us.
Christian. Daughter. Sister. Mother. Teacher. Those words describe who I have been in the lives of some. But I surely hope I am living my life in a way that impacts others for good beyond that little circle.
I want to share a challenge with my readers this week on the eve of another family funeral. How do people describe you? Are you living out your days in such a way that people will only be able to remember the good about you when “it’s your turn to go”? As long as there is breath in our body, we have time to reach out to others and to impact other people in a good way. There is always room to do better. There is still time to give our lives and our future into the hands of a loving God who wants us to be all that we were meant to be.
Reach Judith Victoria Hensley at [email protected] or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.