Cousin Jack

The Princess and I are headed South for a visit with Handome Blond Brother and his Beautiful Blond(e) Family in Historic Billsburg. Last night we spent in an undisclosed woodsy location with our Cousin Jack.

Cousin Jack is the first cousin of my late father. Their fathers were the two closest brothers in a family of seven children, and there was a deep love between their two families. When my grandfather died in early 1940, my grandmother called Jack’s father, who drove hours to Smallville, Virginia, to break the news to my father at college and bring him home. This beloved uncle looked so much like my grandfather that he shocked people by sitting on my grandmother’s front porch in the days surrounding the funeral.
When my father was at Fort Bragg during WWII, he often visited the three little cousins, of whom Jack was the eldest. Their father died in 1943, and this seemed to increase the bond felt between Jack and Daddy.

They both grew up to be accomplished and, at times, controversial men, one in politics, one in religion. It’s hard to remember now that my father’s advocacy for equality in education was as wildly radical in the 1950’s as his cousin’s advocacy for equality in ordination would be later.

Our memories are short.

Imagine that in a period of discernment you have the opportunity to spend an evening with someone who is your Yoda (only much taller!).

Last night I spoke to Jack of the struggle between my call to ministry and my call to motherhood, but more than that I owned up to the conflict between the understanding of “church” I have gained in the intimacy of Small Church and my envy–wow, that was surprisingly easy to confess this morning–of my contemporaries in ministry who have “bigger” and “better” jobs. Daddy made a difference in this world, I said, and there is a little, nagging voice in my head saying I ought to do that, too.

“Songbird,” he said gently, “there are people in Virginia that don’t remember he was their senator. We’re lucky to be remembered by two generations that follow us, our children and our grandchildren, and to be known by two before us, our parents and our grandparents. Some are luckier and know great-grandparents and great-grandchildren. But ultimately we are all forgotten.”

He says it so humbly, this man who is in demand for radio and TV interviews, this author and speaker, and he means it. I wish that people who demonize him could sit at his table and eat the dinner he prepared with his own hands, the same hands that held mine and The Princess’s to give thanks to Gracious God for the food we shared.

It’s now that matters. It’s the people whose lives we touch directly that matter. That is where we can make the world a better place.

“It is someone who stood at a crossroads with us, when we didn’t even know it was an important moment, who matters,” he said. “Later we look back and realize it.”

It won’t take much distance to see this one, Cousin Jack. Thank you.