My Good Wife and I moved into our new home last Friday. It’s the first new house to be built on the Ruffin Family Farm, located just outside of greater metropolitan Yatesville, since the original farmhouse was constructed around 1842. That house and the farm on which it sits became the Ruffin homestead in 1918.
Three years later, on July 25, 1921, Champ Lee Ruffin was born in that house. So last Saturday, the first full day that we spent in our new place just a little ways down the road from the house where he was born, was the 94th anniversary of my father’s birth.
He’s been long gone. He was at work in the Bleach Department of Thomaston Mills on Thursday, May 24, 1979, when he suffered a massive heart attack. He died in the Thomaston hospital three days later. He was 57.
As I looked around I realized that the vast majority of the people at that family gathering had no memory of my father. Most of them were born after he died. Likewise, he never knew most of them. When he died, they were not, to use one of his favorite expressions, “even a gleam in their father’s eye.” Shoot, some of their fathers were barely a gleam in their fathers’ eyes.
Yet there they were, all of them with Ruffin blood flowing in their veins, all of them relatives of my long deceased father. He would have loved them all. He would have been proud of them all. He would have been tickled to have been around them last Saturday.
Daddy’s father—my PawPaw—was 94 when he died. I can imagine my father cackling Paw-Paw style at the antics of the newest generation of the family.
And so it goes with families. People die and people are born. Generations come and generations go.
It’s the same way in our families of faith. People die; generations pass. We remember them. We appreciate them. We build on what they left for us. We keep the best of what they left us; we discard what wasn’t so helpful.
People are born; new generations arise. They bring us new energy, new ideas, and new perspectives. They build on what was passed on to them but they also construct their own legacy. They have their own successes and they make their own mistakes.
Generations down the road, our spiritual descendants will still be keeping the faith, even as they try to figure out how to live it out and share it in changing times.
And just like now, those who are of the, shall we say, more chronologically advanced generation, will wonder if they’re going to make it.
Maybe the best we can do is to cackle at them. And to trust them …
(This article first appeared in "Ruffin's Renderings" in the Thomaston (GA) Times on July 31, 2015)