There are around 150 Wards, now, stemming from Grandpa and Grandma Ward (Harris and Gladys), and the number continues to grow every year through births and marriage and even adoption. I’ve lost track of the exact number again, but I’d say in the four generations that have followed them so far, Grandma and Grandpa have done pretty well for themselves! They are both in Heaven now, but I (the second of Generation 2) remember them both well and to this day still love and miss them. Grandpa died in 1973, and Grandma lived almost 21 years without him. My granddaughter Sara was the first of Generation 4 and she was only five months old when Grandma went home to be with the Lord. Generation 4 never knew Grandma and Grandpa, and now here we are—in a few years we will no doubt begin Generation 5. Time and their legacy march on.
All eight of Grandma and Grandpa’s children are still alive and I so look forward to seeing my aunts and uncles at these reunions! Some of them are embarking into their eighties now. I dread the day when someone is missing from our reunion here on earth. We’ve already lost two of their spouses – my own dad and Uncle Sam. Praise God, we will have a grand reunion in Heaven, though, for most of my family knows the Lord as their Savior, and someday “the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:16, 17) For now, though, I will cherish the time I get to spend with them at our reunions and treasure the memories we have of good times together.
And then there are the cousins. I have twenty-seven first cousins among the Wards. My cousin David went home to Heaven at the young age of 44. One of the regrets of my life has been that I never really got to know David as an adult. I have wonderful, funny memories of him as a little boy and young teen, but by the time he grew up we had gone our separate ways – he in the Air Force and me with my little family out to Colorado. That time in Colorado was where God wanted us, and I am glad for the years we spent there, but I didn’t have many opportunities to keep up with my extended family being so far away. I missed many weddings and reunions and other family gatherings during that time. We had returned to Indiana when David died, though, and I suddenly realized how precious my family was to me, and I never wanted to have regrets like that again. I wanted to really know my cousins. That is when the reunions really became important to me. Our family website and message board, called the Gab, which was begun the night after David’s funeral by his brother Reid, became an invaluable tool, also, in drawing us all closer together.
Even the younger generations look forward to our reunions! I don’t know of too many teenagers who look forward to family reunions, but our kids have always been excited to pick up right where they left off two years before and share the excitement and fun of playing jokes on each other and especially on the aunts and uncles! There have been many a TP’d car – and even a few Saran-wrapped ones! Playing tag at midnight in an old cemetery, scavenger hunts, picnics and games, variety shows we put on ourselves, lots of time in the pool – all this and more kept them coming back for more.
Bob’s family is having a mini-reunion this afternoon out at a cousin’s house. It’s not the big three-day, organized event that the Ward’s have biannually, but I am really happy Bob is going. His family is not close at all, and Bob has not seen most of these aunts and uncles and cousins in decades, but he has fond memories from his childhood of them. I hope he has a great time. It didn’t work out for Robbie and me to go because he has to leave for it straight from church this morning, but he went armed with pictures and I am sure, knowing Bob, he’ll be bragging on his kids and grandkids!
Marriage and family was the first of God’s institutions here on earth. The Bible tells of many different family dynamics in the stories of the Old Testament, and teaches principles for living within our families in the New Testament. We see husband/wife relationships and parent/child relationships, of course, but then there are also stories of sibling rivalries (ie. Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, Leah and Rachel), in-law relationships (bad—Laban and Jacob; good—Naomi and Ruth), and intergenerational bonds (Lois, Eunice and Timothy.) We see uncles mentioned (Saul’s and David’s) and even cousins (Mordecai and Esther, and Mary and Elizabeth.)
Family is extremely important to God. Not only was it the first of His institutions, but it also is what he uses to illustrate our relationship with Him and with one another. He is our Father. ”After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9) Romans 8:14-17 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” What an amazing and awesome truth!
As believers, we are brothers and sisters in the Lord and are to treat one another as family. “Rebuke not an elder, but treat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” (I Timothy 5:1, 2) The church’s relationship with Christ is likened to a bride and her groom and a marriage. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:7-9)
I love my big earthly family and am so glad that death does not separate us forever when we know Christ as our Savior. How awesome to be part of an even larger family – the family of God! “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” (Ephesians 3:14, 15) Won’t that big family reunion in Heaven when we are all gathered at the marriage supper of the Lamb be wonderful! It thrills my heart here on earth to sing His praises at our little worship service at our family reunions. I can’t even imagine having all eternity to sing His praises with my brothers and sisters from every tribe and nation and people and era of this world when we are all together before His throne!