Great, Great, Great, Great, Grandmother…

Admittedly, my mind swirls just a little when I try to reconcile all the family ancestry. My paternal grandmother was great at that stuff, but I don’t think that penchant for digging up the family tree is in my DNA. And I have always been closer to my mother’s family than I was to my father’s family. That’s probably because I grew up within a mile of my mother’s parents and spent almost every week-end helping Grandpa in the yard.

I heard many stories about the family history and the importance of family. My grandfather’s sister died back in 1900 – when he was about 6 years old. And Grandpa lost his mother five years later, in 1905 – both his mother and sister died of tuberculosis. Back then, the family barely had any money at all and each person was buried in a pauper’s grave – unmarked – at Oakwoods Cemetery on the south side of Chicago.

Coincidentally, Grandma’s family also had their family plot at Oakwoods. Grandma’s father and his two brothers each bought 6 graves and had a large monument erected to mark the spot where the family members would be laid to rest. This happened back in the late 1800’s and the brothers, their wives, and most of their children are all buried there. That includes my maternal grandmother and grandfather as well.

Growing up, I know how much of a responsibility Grandpa took in looking after the graves. Whenever he was upset or needed to think about a case he was working on, he would head out to Oakwoods and visit the graves of his mother, sister and Grandma’s family. Before I was born, Grandpa finally was able to afford headstones for his Mom and sister. They were installed in 1951. I have never found the graves and was told that those areas of the cemetery were re-sodded and the headstones covered. That would have been unacceptable to Grandpa so I have been on a mission the last 7 years to discover the true locations and make sure they are properly marked. Today, that mission was accomplished.

Furthermore, as the oldest grandson, I was charged with the responsibility, even as a young boy, to make sure that throughout my life the family plots were maintained under the perpetual care agreement more than a century old. So while we were in Chicago the past several days, it was a perfect time to check on things. It’s been 9 years since I have visited the grave sites, as I don’t get back to the south side of Chicago very often these days.

Janet, our daughter Jill, and her son, Drew, were with me. As we headed south from downtown, we stopped and located the graves of Grandpa’s family members that I had requested to be marked by cemetery staff. And they were in even better condition than I had expected – the headstones re-set above the sod and in plain sight. It was the first time I have ever seen them. Then over to the 18 plots that hold the remains of Grandma’s family. As I stood there with Jill (who was there for the first time) and Drew, it occurred to me that my grandmother, her father and mother, and great grandfather’s mother were all laid to rest there. That means they Drew visited the grave of his great, great, great, great grandmother. It was something of a surreal moment for me – 7 generations of the family – who would have thought…

My mind went back to when I was a little kid, bringing flowers and playing with the ducks in the lake at the end of the section. I remembered my mother telling me she learned to drive at the age of 13 on the very cemetery road where my car was now parked. And I could almost see my grandfather leaning over the graves of his sister and mother – deriving comfort from knowing that they wouldn’t be anonymous in unmarked graves. Never, ever, in my wildest imagine did I ever envision myself 60 years later – visiting the same monument and some of the same people who have been there for many years before I was even born. Additionally, there have been some newer ones along the way; notably Grandma, Grandpa and Auntie Lou – all of whom I grew up with and used to take me to visit at Oakwoods. Now they are all there as well. And this little six year old grandson of ours has no idea that someday he may well be in charge of making sure that things continue to run smoothly. Only time will tell.

The Scripture makes a big deal out of ancestry and genealogy. In fact, the book of Matthew starts out with the lineage of the line of Christ and Luke lists another genealogy –  so the New Testament has two – one from the family of Joseph and the other from the family of Mary. If you think about it, it may be that you have never heard a sermon preached on a “family tree.” Although that was very important to the Jewish people – a clear line of ancestry was critically important to establish true family heritage. Even today, knowing which tribe you descended from is a big deal…

The verse for this evening highlights the importance of family lineage to the Jewish nation. Matthew wrote his Gospel to the Jews and knowing their ancestry was, as mentioned above, of the utmost importance. Notice that Abraham was considered the father of the Jewish people so the genealogy starts with him and moves forward, through the patriarchs, King David and finally to Jesus Himself. Matthew wanted to make sure that the people knew that Jesus was a direct descendant of David and the patriarchs. Matthew tells us, in Matthew 1:1-2, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers…

My encouragement this evening is that family lineage is important to God and should be important to each of us. My prayer is that you will honor the past generations and do your part to make sure that their memory is preserved. After all, some day, your descendants will be charged with the job of making sure that your memory is preserved as well – and we all wish to leave a legacy of kindness and devotion to our families. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

 
 
 
 

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