A week ago my husband had lost a beloved cousin, Glenn Strong, to violence. The news was shocking and devastating. I saw my news feed fill up with the outcry of his family and friends. Part of me thinks the violence aspect caused even more pain and confusion than other situations. As the week progressed, I watched as my strong loving husband went from shock to brokenness masked only by keeping busy. Even in the midst of everything he remained strong and steadfast for his girls. My heart ached in empathy for him and his family and I felt completely helpless and unable to comfort. The only thing I could do was to follow his lead and stand by him to support and love him.
So this morning we were planning the events of the day and the timeline,when he asked if I had ever been to a "black funeral".
While we were at the funeral there were some minor differences, but that might even be just differences in churches. Most all of what I experienced was exactly the same.
We heard the mournful wails of the brokenhearted sister. We saw the husband holding up his wife as she said goodbye to her baby boy. We saw the cousins who were both broken-hearted at the loss of someone so dear, while also so thankful to be reunited with other family members. We heard the gentle crinkle of the candy wrappers from the elderly lady who passed them out to restless children. We smelled the food that had been lovingly prepared for the family. We heard the lyrics to "His Eye On The Sparrow". We saw the room overfilled with all those whose lives were touched by Glenn. We heard the words of the pastors who pointed the glory back to God. The thing that was exactly the same was the feeling of love that poured from the family.
From the first time I met my husband's family, I have felt loved and welcome and the very first person I met was Glenn. It is one of my favorite stories and I even told it less than a week before Glenn's passing.
When I first met my husbands family, they were having a reunion in a park and we had arrived after it was already dark. There was very little lighting and I only knew his dad and brothers who had arrived with us. When the hubby was speaking to some family members I went to walk around and introduce myself. I walked up to the first picnic table and introduced myself to a kind man. He said, "It's nice to meet you. I'm Little Glenn." We spoke briefly and then I went to another table. Again I introduced myself, or reintroduced myself. He said, "Hi Faith, I just met you. I'm Glenn." I was slightly embarrassed but it could have happened to anyone. I went to another group and yet again reintroduced myself. (Now remember it is very dark and they are all family..) Again he kindly responded, "Hi Faith. I am Glenn. Why don't I walk you around and introduce you to everyone?" He walked and talked with me as I got to meet all of my husband's family.
Through the funeral and the reception Abbie, our oldest, kept mentioning that she loved her daddy's family. She also mentioned how loving his family was. I reminded her several times that they are all her family not just her dad's. She was a part of this amazing loving family.
After spending more time with his family I came to a realization. Just like Abbie, I had continued to refer to them as his family. The reality is they are MY family. Eleven years ago they welcomed me in and have made me feel so incredibly loved. We see them far too little and I hope to change that. I love my family and will be lifting them up as they face the loss of Glenn, the first one to welcome me again and again and again.