Tag Archives: West Virginia

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.


 

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Dear Daddy …

7 Jul

This is the day the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

Dad and Mom on their wedding day. July 7, 1956

Dad and Mom on their wedding day.
July 7, 1956

Happy Wedding Anniversary, Dad! It’s been 57 years today since you married that pretty young woman from Friendship Church. Considering all the stories that have been told of your wandering years from early teens until you met this special lady, committing yourself to her in marriage was a huge life-style change. And as they say, the rest is history.

25th Anniversary

25th Anniversary … 1981

It’s that time of year again, you know…between the middle of June into the first week of July, my mind and heart are heavy with thoughts of you. Father’s Day comes and goes with much celebration for those in my life who are dads, but there will always be an ache as I card shop, knowing that I must once again overlook the cards that say ‘To Dad ~ from your Daughter’. Then right around the corner rolls the 24th of June. It’s so hard to believe that it has now been 19 years since I have held your hand and felt your scruffy face against mine. And then today is your anniversary with mom. She and I were just talking about you on Friday and how much you have been on her mind … and how much she misses you. Especially on days like today. But today will very quickly turn into tomorrow, and the next day … and before we know it, the weather will begin to cool and the seasons change. There will be a nip in the air, along with the smell of burning leaves, and the realization of another year soon coming to a close. Another year without you…

Grandma and Grandpa Wells with baby Kimberly.

Grandma and Grandpa Wells with baby Kimberly…August 1983

I will always question why, you know. Why did you have to die at such a young age? 60 years old is right in the middle of loving grandchildren, just before retirement, and too soon to walk your beloved down the aisle at your grandchildren’s weddings and to hold their babies in your arms. Why? But the answer to that question is known only to God. In the midst of my tears that still fall, I continue to relinquish you and my loss of you to Him. And to trust Mom to Him, as well. She is most precious … but then you knew that 57 years ago.

Just a few weeks ago, Mom and I drove down to West Virginia to see Uncle Johnse. I had flown into Indy to attend the Nazarene Church General Assembly, and we decided to be spontaneous and make a quick trip to the boonies. What fun we had as we drove through the beautiful countryside, chatting about this and that, and reminiscing a lot about years gone by and our annual family vacations to visit relatives in West Virginia, Virginia, and Chattanooga. I’m sure you remember those trips well!! Especially the train trip into West Virginia … or more specifically, the return trip back home. I had gotten sick the last few days of our stay, so this 6 year-old little girl was still not feeling well when we began our journey back to Indy. I still remember vivid details of a large train station where our family was seated to eat breakfast. Orange juice, my sick tummy, a yucky mess all over me and the table, and you taking me into the men’s restroom to clean me up. I remember feeling very special and cared for by you … Oh the memories! I would love to know what you remember about that moment!

As mom and I meandered our way along the twisty-turny roads that have not changed much through the years, we eventually arrived at Lick Creek Holler and slowly drove the remaining 2 miles of gravel to the old home place. I know that you and mom loved to come visit Uncle Johnse and Aunt Bert … and as we pulled in, I wondered what all Mom was thinking and feeling as she returned yet another time without you.

Me and Mom with Uncle Johnse ... June 20, 2013

Me and Mom with Uncle Johnse … June 20, 2013

The next 6 hours were full, Daddy … full of stories and tales and lots of love. There Uncle Johnse laid in a hospital bed in the living room, unable to get up any longer, eye sight nearly gone, but a mind that was sharp with memories, dates, and details, and a heart that was so sweet and kind and thrilled that we came to see him. Your big brother, now 82 years old, laughing about how spoiled you were as a child, but all for good reason, he said, since you had asthma and were so sick ever since you were little. I felt like a sponge that day as I sat there and listened to stories … some I have heard told over and over, while others were new, each one full of life and love. From the portals of Heaven, I’m sure that you had gathered together as many family members as possible to join you and dear Aunt Bert in having a reunion of your own as Uncle Johnse so fondly spoke of his Elizabeth and his brother, John D. Obviously we couldn’t see you two, but we could feel your love in our hearts. Before we left, mom and I, along with Cathy and Uncle Johnse, held hands and I prayed…feeling as though I was standing in the gap between you and Jesus and Uncle Johnse. As I leaned over to kiss him ‘until next time’, I knew that someday you will be at the Gate waiting for him.

So here it is, July 7th. We all will make mention of this special day to those we are with, and even shed a tear or two as we continue to think about you and our loss. But as a child of God, I cannot help but believe that you are simply having the time of your Life. You are fishing in a new spot every day. You have been reunited with your hunting beagles and have no doubt rustled up a few rabbits from the bushes. You are surrounded by the elite of eternity, not to mention family and friends.  And above all, you get to celebrate this special day, and every day, with Jesus. It is because of Him that my questions can remain unanswered. It is because of Him, that I know all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes. It is because of Him that “I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”

Happy Anniversary, Daddy!
Thanks for always loving mom … back then and still today.
More importantly, thank you, for loving Jesus…back then and still today.

Until next time,
Your Bobbie Naw