I come from a long line of warriors.
Doesn’t look like it on the surface, I suppose, when you see us at a family gathering, asking our kids to bring us another glass of tea, and taking the first eight steps after getting out of the chair to stand fully erect. Some of us having to stop halfway to our car to rest a moment before continuing.
But look deeper, and you’ll see it.
Standing under the old, oak tree is my Uncle Jim. He fought in Vietnam, his company getting ambushed nearly every night. He still has nightmares about it, I hear.
Once, when Uncle Jim and his company were marching through the jungle, he suddenly got a rock in his combat boot, and had to stop and get it out. When his buddy behind him asked if he should wait on him, Jim told him to go ahead, and that he’d be along directly.
A ways down the path his buddy stepped on a landmine.
There wasn’t even enough of him to send home to his relatives for a proper burial. Creepy part is, my Grandma Stroud (RIP) sat bolt upright in bed one night, and felt prompted to pray for Uncle Jim. When he came home, he and Grandma compared notes, and her prayer went up to Heaven the exact same time Jim’s buddy took his place in eternity. He should’ve died a hundred times over, but the Lord had other plans.
He’s tough as nails, yet he weeps when patriotic songs are played. I’ve heard my Aunt Sue—his wife—say he has a hard time giving his Christian testimony because he gets choked up. He loves his God, his family and his country, and would go to war again to protect them if he was asked.
Sitting on the back porch, holding his walking cane on his lap, is my Uncle Bill. He was in ‘Nam a couple years after Jim. His battle experience wasn’t quite as rough, but life has a way of evening things out, I guess.
He battled cancer and won, but is now taking treatments again.
Funny thing is, he never complains to the family. You ask him how he’s doing, and he just smiles and says, “Oh, pretty good, how ‘bout you, Rob?”
He’s also fought his way through back surgeries, and chronic pain in his back, hips and legs, forcing him into early retirement.
But he’s got nothing but love for ya. He has a heart of gold.
The big guy sitting at the patio table, with his two walking canes, is my Uncle Aaron. He’s only a couple years older than me, so we’re more like cousins or brothers than uncle and nephew.
He was a raging alcoholic and drug addict for years. I mean, this dude was hardcore, and must’ve totaled 15 vehicles before he finally settled down. The amount of chemicals the man ingested would’ve killed anyone else, yet here he sits. Laughing, talking about how much he loves to play the bass guitar in his church worship band. How proud he is God is using him in an outreach ministry to help the poor in his community.
Now he rages against the darkness, against poverty, against pain, in the name of God.
Just getting up to leave is Uncle Kenny. He was in stage four cancer a few years ago, and should’ve died. He was also forced into early retirement due to chronic physical issues, but the man won’t quit.
Because quitting is not an option, that’s why.
Some days Kenny barely has the strength to get out of bed, but he does it anyway, doing battle with liberal agendas on Facebook, going to war with the devil in his prayers, and faithfully serving his pastor and local church.
That’s my mom in the house, mixing up another batch of lemonade. She’s had multiple surgeries, and her hips and back are so crooked it’s literally impossible for her to stand up straight. Yet she’s in the kitchen, asking my wife if she needs any help.
Jim’s wife, Aunt Sue, is sitting at the kitchen table, talking to her sister, Aunt Ann, and my mom, when mom stops working long enough to sit down. Sue and Ann keep getting up, trying to help, and we keep trying to tell them to sit down, that we can handle it.
Sue was nearly in kidney failure, but my mom gave her a kidney and saved her life several years ago. Sue, like the rest of us, has suffered through numerous surgeries and blinding, debilitating pain, but her infectious laugh still puts a smile on my face.
Aunt Ann’s back hurts so terribly bad—from, again, many procedures and multiple, crippling issues, giving her endless, enduring pain in her back, hips and legs—that she walks stooped over most of the time.
Yet, when they’re sitting around the table, they don’t talk about pain. No, they talk about life, and love, and get a kick out of sharing stories about their grandkids. And great-grandkids.
Finally, there’s my dad. He and I didn’t get along when I was growing up (see my blog, “A Tale of Forgiveness, from Father to Son,” https://brokenpeople.blog/2017/01/06/a-tale-of-forgiveness-from-son-to-father/). Dad comes from a long line of manual laborers, brick layers and construction workers mostly; men who earned their back-breaking living by the sweat of their brow. I have nothing but admiration for my Grandpa Weddle (RIP), who retired as a bricklayer, and his brothers and cousins, but dad chose a different path.
Going against the grain, dad started as a clerk for a local oil company. He says, “I got paid peanuts, but’cha gotta start somewhere.”
Dad was so driven, he was a bank president by the age of 35, without a college degree. He’s about the hardest working man I’ve ever known, and so rarely slows down or complains, you’d think he was part machine.
You see, I come from a long line of warriors, determined to fight the agony of that darkness which seeks to devour our entire existence, until God gives up permission to lay down our weapons. Quitting is not an option. We’ve slowed down, sure, but we won’t stop.
For you see, victory is the only dream worth pursuing.
“Be courageous! Let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. May the Lord’s will be done (II Samuel 10:12).”
“You give me strength for the battle and victory over my enemies (Psalm 18:39).”