Monday, December 09, 2013

The Start and the Continuation

As we prepare to say our final farewell to a father deeply loved, I am reminded of how desperately I hate goodbyes. I am convinced that goodbyes were never meant to be a part of the creation as it was intended, so we should expect the inevitable pain and sorrow that accompanies the unwelcome parting each time it is inflicted upon us. Perhaps in my resentment of this goodbye, I have spent the past several days reflecting upon the past 13 years of sharing in the life of this father-to-so-many; I have been celebrating (as I know he would) the reality that life is beautiful, even in this fallen world, in our less-than-completed form.

My journey with Papa Ross began over 13 years ago as I prepared to marry Kris and become a part of this heritage-rich family. Not unlike the experience of countless others, my first impression of Papa Ross was rather daunting. I was on a college break and visited their family over Thanksgiving. I knew this was a "vetting" interview to see how qualified I was to marry the eldest son, but I nevertheless managed to be fairly unprepared. Papa Ross began to engage me in intense discussion, whilst the rest of the family progressively disappeared into the other rooms of the house. Once everyone else was gone, he said, "So, Eryn, tell me about your theology". Every girl's worst nightmare... I know what I believe, sure, but I was terrified of articulating it to a man who I perceived to be incredibly adept at pilfering out the details of a person's theological background and how it was applied in their life. So, as I grasped for some starting point by which to lay out my theological history, I said, "Can you tell me about your theological background, first?" Saved! Four and a half hours later, with barely 20 words spoken on my part, he had come to the satisfactory conclusion that I had a reasonable grasp of what was important and that I would quickly learn the rest as I was submerged into the culture that is the McGary family - a culture rooted in truth, shaped by love and shared with everyone.

We, as a family, have shared in many joys and sorrows, since that day, and my life has been forever changed and molded in that process. I noticed very quickly that Papa Ross articulated the foundation this family was built upon and that Mama Lynn lived out those ideas in very practical, tangible ways each day. They deeply complemented one another in that way, and their appreciation for each other never ran dry. They were hopelessly in love and the nearly 5 years of separation that was forced upon them in death were most clearly the greatest trial of Papa Ross' life. In losing her, he struggled to live, and I think something I found remarkable is how (through his sorrow) he reached out to nearly every person he encountered, engaging them in meaningful conversation, probing into their lives and investing himself into their well being. The hospital room and memorial service filled with people is testimony to that fact. The ideas and the remarkable understanding of this man will continue on in the countless lives of those he invested in, and in his children and grandchildren.

So many sweet memories have been a part of my thoughts - but now is not the time to recount that list. Suffice it to say that my greatest joy in these days of reflection, is knowing that Papa Ross is finally dancing again with the love of his life. Such sweetness does much to ease sorrow.

Papa Ross, Hun-Hun and Madigan

Kris, Uncle David (Mama Lynn's brother), Papa Ross

Papa Ross and Paugie