On Tuesday, I spoke at the funeral service of my grandmother - Juanita Armstrong. She was my father's mother and was 91 when she died - sixteen years to the day after my dad. She spent her life in southeast Kansas and was a farmer's wife, at least until 1969 when she and Grandpa moved into town. I have so many memories of singing with the family around the organ in their living room (with Grandpa playing along on his harmonica), of playing on their farm or in the lot north of their house in Girard, and of holidays in their home. Grandma was an avid reader and her Christmas list (even through this last one) was always full of books. I probably caught that bug from her. I remember being at her house over the summers and reading the books she had there. Over the years, she passed many of those on to me, including a set of books written by Harold Bell Wright, a Kansas writer and minister from the first part of the 1900's. Some of those books - first editions - are now over 100 years old, including one of my favorite novels: The Shepherd of the Hills. But probably the greatest trait of her life was her love for and generosity to her family. She loved her family - her sons and daughters-in-law, grand kids, great-grand kids, and great-great-granddaughter. I am so thankful that she got to see and visit with all of them during Christmas this year.
With Grandma's death, all of my grandparents are now gone and the dynamics of the family will change just as they did for the Huber side. The ones who held the aunts and uncles and cousins together are no longer there. My hope is that we will find ways to stay connected, but I know that is difficult and will take effort. Our lives and our society make those extended family connections difficult. We tend to get too scattered and too busy. But without them, we lose some of who we are and miss out on the stability and sense of belonging that we all need and for which so many are looking.