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Monday, May 10, 2010

Celebrating Junior

Jean said:

Today I'm veering off my pattern of referring to a book that has inspired me. Instead, I want to thank the Lord for some people who inspired me this weekend.

My Uncle Junior left this earth last Thursday. After 94 years in my Dad's family he packed up and went Home to be with the Lord. His Mama and Daddy, one of his sisters, and all four of his brothers welcomed him.

In his honor my Mama, J. and I drove to FL to attend his funeral. What a wonderful experience it was. It was grand to be around family that I haven't seen for years. They were all so used to being together. I sat back and absorbed a great big chunk of their love. I basked in the genuinely warm way they welcomed us. I was amazed at their comfortable transparency and sincerity. Like my Mama always says, "They are just good people."

It made me kind of sorry that we have lived so far from our families for most of our 41 years of marriage.

Uncle J. was a special person. In his unassuming way he was the hub of this family, I think. He kept everyone connected. He gave everyone a common purpose. Years ago on her deathbed Granny's last words to her children were, "Take care of Junior" and they did. With love and compassion. Outstandingly.

His was the happiest funeral I have ever attended. Few tears were shed. We were all too busy clapping our hands and stomping our feet as we sang old gospel hymns (Uncle Junior's favorites). We were accompanied by my five cousins playing their electric guitars and Junior's neighbor (married to Junior's niece) playing the piano. "The Old Rugged Cross" and "I'll Fly Away" made the rafters of the church ring Saturday morning.

Several cousins told funny stories about life with Uncle Junior, so we spent a good bit of our time laughing as well. The pastor's sermon was enriched by stories of Uncle Junior's faithfulness to his church and his unbridled love of worship. My, how he loved to sing about Jesus. Most of the time no one else could understand his words, nor identify the tune he was singing, mind you. But he knew, and God always recognized the songs of Junior's heart, too.

My cousin wrote a eulogy for him; it describes what a special person he was so very well. And it reflects the affection -- not pity -- everyone in our family felt for him. I want to share it here and thank God for the privilege of knowing Uncle Junior, and being loved by him all of my life. I want to thank God for the incredible testimony and example this family has lived out for all their lives--the testimony of loving and caring for and providing for their brother who was unable to provide for himself.

"In as much as you have done it unto the least of have done it unto Me."

What an incredible picture of God's love for you and me.Like Uncle Junior we are all helpless, dependent and powerless to save ourselves. But we have a Rescuer, a Provider, a Lover named Jesus.
Cousin Skipper wrote this abouto Uncle Junior:

Charlie M. Matthew (Jr.) was born January 23rd 1916 in Barberville, FL to Charlie C. Matthew and Emmie Hobbs Matthew. He went to be with Jesus on May 6th, 2010, at the age of 94. He was a victim of the great flu epidemic of 1918 and suffered severe brain damage, which prevented him from living a normal life, but he had six brothers and sisters, good Christian parents and numerous nieces and nephews who loved him dearly and always provided for him.

As a young adult he was able to work for his brother, Bill Matthew as a logger and contribute to the family income. He loved to work with his hands and never complained regardless of the task ahead. He always made sure you had help whether you needed it or not. In spite of his limitations he had a remarkable memory that came in handy for us, as he loved to rearrange the tools in the workshop where only he could find them.

He loved meeting new people and greeted everyone with "Charlie Matthew is my name." He had a legendary hand shake which often lasted for the entire duration of his conversation with you. Amazingly he could remember the name of almost everyone he met and considered every one of them his friend.

Jr., or Buggy, as we affectionately called him, loved to fish and had the patience of Job. He would sit on the dock for hours holding a pole while occasionally making the comment, "I don't know why them fish ain't bitin'' today." He loved animals and they seemed to have a special attraction for him. He often went fox and deer hunting with his brother-in-law Quint and had a gift for catching the most stubborn dogs when they wouldn't come to anyone else.

Most of all he loved Jesus and was a faithful member of his Sunday School class all his life.

I would add that Uncle Junior never considered himself to be a person to be pitied. He never saw himself as different from the rest of us. And we never saw him as being any less of a person than we. He was a PLUS person, a person who added to our lives in many ways.

Thank You, Lord, for Uncle Junior's life. Thank You for loving him. Thank You for loving all the rest of us pathetic, helpless, slow-to-learn and powerless human beings. Thank You for cherishing us, valuing us, and sacrificing so much to save us from ourselves, Lord.

God said:

I saw what a great time you were all having. We were listening in on your celebration of Junior's life. He sends his regards, Little One. But he can't stop to talk to you right this minute. He's too busy shaking the hands of every single person here.

I'm enjoying having him Home with Me at last.

Oh, and he says to tell you to hurry Home, too. He'll be here patiently waiting for you.