Living on Purpose: The challenge to keep families together

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

I am sure that many of you can remember when life was not so demanding and filled with anxiety or at least it seemed that way. I was raised in the city so when I had a chance to go to my grandparent’s house out in the country it was like going on vacation. They lived on a quiet overgrown road that came to a dead-end at the Kentucky River and their farm was so remote that when an occasional car would pass by we would stop and stare at it like it was entertainment. I will never forget helping in the garden, feeding the animals, playing in the fireplace and the sights and smells of country living that gave me a sense of love and security.

I have such fond thoughts of my grandmother serving huge delicious meals, eating homemade ice-cream, the joy and freedom of running through fields and forest and then catching lightning bugs in the evening. When I was young, I thought that going fishing on my grandfather’s boat was the ultimate adventure and going to the creek to help them wash their old car was such innocent fun. Looking for crawdads, throwing rocks, watching out for snakes and getting soaking wet on a hot sunny day were the perfect combination for thrills and excitement. And in the winter when the snow was deep we would go out and play then come in and hold our hands over the pot belly stove and listen to the coal crackle and pop. Spending the night was filled with such anticipation as we slept in huge feather beds with piles of blankets and I still recall the moonlight shining through the windows that made everything seem magical to a boy who dreamed this would last forever. 

My wife Cheryl has also told me of the special occasions her family shared together with cookouts and all the kids running and playing. I remember her grandmother that lived in an old farmhouse off the highway where so many parties and celebrations happened there over the years. Her husband had passed away a long time ago, but they had seven children and this is where everyone would meet on the weekends. My wife recalls how the men would gather under the shade trees and talk about cars, sports, and fishing while the women would be in the house laughing and preparing the meal. Unfortunately, when her grandmother passed away, it was the end of an era. Many times families become distant when certain loved ones pass away and the absence of these central figures reveal just how much their love, generosity, and concern was the “glue” that held everyone together. We often hear how the world has changed for the worse but maybe it had a lot to do with us being so young that we paid no attention to the news. Or maybe it was because evil had not been so brave to step out from the shadows as it is now. Whatever the case, as we grew up we were slowly drawn into the worries and anxieties of life and as we became burdened with more responsibilities we gradually drifted away from each other.

I wrote a song years ago about how sad it is when families drift apart and there’s a line that says,“Just because life is not the way it used to be – doesn’t mean we can’t do the things we used to do.” How important it is to adapt when individuals are missing or the locations are not the same. May we not allow the “missing pieces” (as precious as they are) to prevent us from actively carrying on the legacy and traditions within our family. It’s sad when children and grandchildren do not even know their own aunts, uncles or cousins and the only time they come together is at a funeral where the atmosphere is awkward and everyone seems like strangers. Children form their own opinions and attitudes from the bonds of family and it is selfish for us to have these wonderful experiences and memories and then pull away from this important foundation just because the situation has changed. Our parents and grandparents were hoping and praying that someone (like us) would keep the family together because they understood that close families provide the love, security, encouragement, stability, and nurturing we all need and long for.


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