Every family has folklore. These are the stories that inevitably are retold whenever families gather together, becoming a part of the fabric of the family along the way. Many times the events weren’t funny at the time, but thankfully the passage of time has softened the edges and illuminated the joy. My family has a lot of folklore because my Grandmother was one of six children. That means my Mother is one of twenty-seven cousins! It is through this family folklore that we have truly come to love a special verse.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2a (NIV).
One example of our folklore is the story of the first family reunion hosted by my Mother’s generation. This gathering resulted from their shock at my Grandfather’s sudden passing. They were all so young, starting families and their own lives. His passing startled them so that they wanted to reignite the closeness of their youth.
Spread across the field that adjoined my Grandparent’s house to the backyard of my childhood home, young families spent the warm summer nights sleeping in tents while the older folks got the cool air-conditioned comfort inside the houses. I was one of a herd of small children catching fireflies and playing in the dirt. Men tended the slow cooking barbeque; women cooked for the next set of meals and tended the washing machine that ran non-stop. (Imagine trying to keep up with just the towels from more than 50 people bathing each day and children playing in the garden hose to combat the hot summer temperature!) It was a glorious long weekend…until a sudden summer thunderstorm roared through sending everyone running for cover. The storm didn’t last long, but the tents were blown to the far edges of the fields. Linens, pillows, clothing, toys, everything that had been in the tents was soaked. The yard and field were now a muddy mess to be tracked inside the house. It was a catastrophe!
There was probably some anguish as everyone tried to use the dryer in time to put all the kids to bed. My Mother probably wanted to cry as they figured out how to squish everyone inside the house for supper. All the mothers probably wanted to scream as they tried to occupy all the children when it was too wet and muddy to send us outside. The perfect weekend took a turn, but as the years have passed it has become legendary. No one threw up their hands and headed home, they just took it in stride and had fun that weekend recalled with anything other than a smile and a hearty laugh. We don’t remember the damp sheets or muddy children, we remember the love.
As time has passed some of our dear ones have passed on. Their unique responses to the chaos and messes of life are remembered. Their humor, laughter, and personalities are remembered in our folklore. We honor their memory and the fun we shared with them. These loved ones who are no longer with us are shared with the younger generation in the retelling of these stories. These are the people who make up our family’s great cloud of witnesses. The folklore does more than bind us together with humor, it strengthens us. This is why these stories are so often told when we congregate for funerals, at weddings and the like (yes I realize we tend to gather in churches quite often these days). No matter what events we as a family may face, we can throw off the things that hinder us and persevere. We can take comfort and endure because we have been through difficulties in the past, we will endure still more grief and struggles in the future, yet we will still remain faithful and fix our eyes on the author of our faith. We have our very own great cloud of witnesses surrounding us to make sure of it!