“When we all pull together, together, together,
When we all pull together, how happy we’ll be.”
So says a childhood song I learned in Sunday School. It proved to be true for me last weekend.
My father, John Rayhill, will be ninety years old at the end of this month, and shouldn’t a ninety year old have a party? Of course he should. Being an only child it was up to me to do something.
The first part of the year, Dad was not in very good health and talked of dying and wrote his obituary. I really wondered if he would see his ninetieth birthday. About the middle of the year, his health made an amazing turn for the better as he began to grow stronger day by day. Thank You, Lord!
I began to think seriously about a birthday party. I reserved a large meeting room for a weekend in November.
Then my journey took an unexpected turn. Actually, it was more like dropping off the cliff. My Sweet William had surgery in the summer, and his recovery took longer than either of us expected. The wind was knocked out of my sails. I had a hard time concentrating on most everything and especially plans for a party.
As November drew closer, I became more and more frantic about the event. By this time, Sweet William had yet another surgery in October, and I was in the midst of caregiving once again. Adding to my cliff-hanging days was the fact that my son, my only son, and his family had moved to Tulsa in September. My mind was foggy and my heart was grieving. But, there was a party to plan. I honestly did not know how it was going to happen.
At least I had a room rented.
As the days closed in on me, my cousin-in-law, Linda, came to my rescue. She offered to help with planning the menu, shopping for the food, and overseeing its preparation. I felt part of my load lift.
Other family members and friends began to say they would help with this task or that: decorations, preparing the room, taking pictures, clean-up. I began to realize I was not in this by myself.
I asked a number of people to tell stories about Dad, and each one willingly agreed. I could see a program taking form.
The day arrived for the big celebration. Cousins, cousins-in-law, cousins’ children, (did I mention I am an only child?) and friends began showing up at the rented room. Tables were soon covered with black and white clothes. Simple curly ribbons became a festive decoration. Final food preparation was taking place in the kitchen. A display of photographs and memorabilia seemed to fall into order. A piano was carried to the room for songs later on. Suddenly, it was a party!
I am sure the Lord above wanted Dad to have a birthday celebration. How else could it have come together so beautifully? My Dad was greatly pleased with it and enjoyed greeting the crowd of over 100 people who gathered to honor him. Dad is still talking about it.
Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families . . . ” While I may not be in the category of “lonely,” I am an only child. So I think I can apply this verse to me. God set me in an extended family who have been my substitue brothers and sisters. They have stood beside me when I needed a steady hand, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to lift me up when I could not stand alone. He has also put friends into my life who have been there in the good, bad, and ugly of my life. And they decided to stay. They are like family to me.
These people “pulled together” with me to produce a tribute to my precious father. I could not have done it without them.
Blessings come in so many ways. I know the best ones are the people I call my family.