By: Dr. Jacquelyn Simmons
Scripture: The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness (Isaiah 57:1-2).
Some of you may have remembrances of sharing the pains and agonies I experienced at the first absence of our baby brother (only son our parents had) at our Thanksgiving dinner/ annual family reunion. For years, he and his wife, “Jackie” along with other family members, braved the highways, airways, physical inconveniences and ailments, and inconsistent weather patterns to travel here to Monroe to be in attendance.
While visiting, Ronnie and Jackie always lived with me. Each morning, before starting their active day, they held family devotions. Afterwards, Ronnie went into another room, and they continued with private devotions. It did not matter how late or early it was, their patterns never failed. They went through the same devotional rituals at night. A few times, I tried to join them during their joint devotion, but soon found out that even though I had the impression that we were praying to the same Triune God, they did not seem to be uncomfortable at my attempt to participate with them. I felt that I had to approach him my way and left them to do the same. They never gave me the impression that I was intruding or uninvited, but I didn’t seem to fit, so I soon returned to my way of approaching God.
During our two recent family reunions, we went through our traditional gatherings. However, we had too many empty chairs due to the massive numbers of absences of our younger present generation plus a multitude of older deceased family members, also. Many of them chose to celebrate Thanksgiving in their present home areas and I did not question how they carried out their celebrations.
One of our long-lasting traditions was to gather in a prayer circle around the food, someone quoted a scripture, prayed, and verbally blessed the food (usually a family minister) and we sang a hymn that some of us learned while attending Grambling College (University) and partook of the basically home cooked delicious food.
For a great number of years, as our members decreased, we “hooked-up” with other family members by phone throughout the country and followed the same ritual with them. This past Thanksgiving, no family “hook-ups” were attempted which grieved some of the older family members who feared our traditions were being replaced by worldly or different customs which are evolving into becoming traditional.
No doubt some of you have become sadden as I have about the loss of our God-centered traditions and present elders who are leading some of our younger generations not to give God the respect which will result in disastrous conditions for God’s world, including them, up the road. As Isaiah, the prophet, stated in our text for this message, we, who are suffering the loss of loved ones should be comforted by the fact that if our beloved deceased ones were righteous, they have been taken away from the evils to come, resting in their beds, and have entered into peace.
Love, Jacquelyn Simmons