Traveling the East Texas roads last week, peering into the woods of the bottomlands that line the country roads where cell phone signals strengthen and fade, I couldn't help but feel at home. These were, after all, the lands where the first generations of my father's family settled, well over a hundred years ago. These are the lands spread across counties where I have fished, hunted, played, walked and ran barefooted as a child while visiting kin. Lands that were called prairies in the old black and white pictures, lands now lined by tall trees with breaking limbs and weeping fences, and in some areas where family pastures still exist, they are worked by descendants of those original settlers, kinfolk of mine I'm told.
There have been many phases to my life, some not so good, some great, some unbelievable. But a constant has been the underlying support network that is family: patient, persistent, and supportive when in need, and always there when they are needed the most. I've known grandparents that would do just about anything for their grandchildren and often did; cousins that looked as forward to holiday reunions as to wish-fulfilled birthdays. All of my aunts and uncles and parents worked harder than anyone I have ever known to provide as safe and secure an environment for their families as they possibly could. However far apart they moved, they somehow managed to remain connected.
I have lost a number of kin over the years including some cousins, grandparents and their siblings, my father and his sister, my aunt. Last week I lost an uncle. As many funerals as I have been to throughout my life it doesn't seem to ever get easier; I guess you just get a little more numb to it. What I have gained is an appreciation of the next generation of family members that have moved well into adulthood, now having families of their own. They are a remarkably close-knit group of men and women and I am as proud to be as related to them as I am to the lands so many of us visited this week.
Back in North Texas early this morning, as a full moon moved across a western sky I couldn't help but turn my thoughts back to East Texas. There was something in the sunrise spilling out across the horizon that made me wonder if there really isn't something beneath the surface of it all, a place where all the meaningless things that seem to matter so much to headline news broadcasters and entertainment specialists matter little in some world of ultimates. I don't know that it could be proven, but I think I've gained an insight into what it might be like to exist there, just by being related to the family I’ve known here on Earth.