Tag Archives: Funeral

Uncle Johnse

26 Jun

Though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;
For You are with me.
Psalm 23:4

Uncle Johnse and Aunt Bert

As kids growing up, routines and the traditions of life become a part of who we are. For our own family of 5, summer vacation consisted of 2 parts – we always spent one week in Holland, Michigan and the other week with family. Family, meaning West Virginia and Big Stone Gap, Virginia … with Chattanooga thrown in from time to time. Between my brothers and I, I’m sure we could write a book or two, each chapter telling a different story of our favorite memories, many of which took place up a hill and down a small lane in Switzer, West Virginia. Aunt Bert never let us go hungry and fed us till we could eat no more … and to this day, I still make my iced tea like she taught me. Barbara and I spent hours on the back porch playing jacks and twirling her baton while the boys were off getting dirty somewhere. Speaking of dirty, then Uncle Johnse would come home just in time for dinner, looking like he had been playing in the coal all day, which he had. I can still hear the front door open as he walked in … his gravely voice chuckled as we came running to greet him, excited to see him after a long day apart. He always made us feel like we were the most special kids around, letting us climb up inside his coal truck, sitting there behind the steering wheel and pretending we were as big a deal as we believed our Uncle Johnse was.

I remember being at home and my parents talking about Uncle Johnse getting severely burned in a coal mine fire. To this day, my little-girl thoughts and imagination still fill my mind with visions of what that must have been like for him and how scary it must have been for Aunt Bert, Mike and Barbara. I hope he knew that no amount of scars or wounds would have ever affected our love and affection for him.

There were several things in life that Uncle Johnse loved — from my perspective, anyway … Family, Cadillacs, coal trucks, to sleep with the TV on, horse shoes, and Aunt Bert. Oddly enough, some of my fondest memories were hearing them sometimes bicker and fuss back and forth, but at that the end of the day, they were always snuggled up together, either on the floor or on the couch, sound asleep in front of the TV, which was left on all night.

Time has a way of slipping by all too quickly, and little kids grow up and become adults and begin having children and then grandchildren of their own. That’s what happened to us, but a resemblance of that engrained tradition from our early childhood remained in our hearts and Uncle Johnse has always been our hero. Weddings, funerals, phone calls, road trips and Aunt Nan’s reunions have kept us close through the years. Uncle Johnse’s December 26th birthday has and will always be a red-letter day on our calendars, and I will miss our usual exchange of silly names — I called him Dirty Bird and I was his Yard Bird.

Uncle Johnse was a hero to many of us — a special man who loved life, loved his family and loved the Lord. This past Sunday morning, Heaven’s front gate was opened and Uncle Johnse walked in … his gravely voice no doubt chuckled as he once again saw the love of his life, excited to see her after such a long time apart. My own Daddy, gone 23 years ago tomorrow, and their brother, Kyle, were no doubt standing nearby, anxious for a hug from their brother … and the reunion of all reunions has just begun.

*******

Tim & I with my brothers & their wives
June 23, 2017

It was an honor and privilege to attend Uncle Johnse’s funeral this past Friday with my husband and my brothers and their wives … and to participate in the service by reading this writing.  As we left the beautiful lush mountains of West Virginia the following afternoon, my heart was full and overflowing with gratitude for special family memories and love that already stems across the great divide and into eternity.

Until next time,
Debbie

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.