Sunset Beach
Fine, pale sand blankets this broad shoreline, where turtles nest in the dunes. From the pier, stroll 1.4 miles west to Bird Island and its famous Kindred Spirit Mailbox, where visitors share confessions.
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I remember a long-ago debate among my mother and some of her brothers and sisters. They were trying to determine whether they would know each other in heaven. After Scripture passages supporting both sides were quoted and discussed, Mama cast the deciding vote: "Well, I just believe we're gonna know each other. Who wants coffee?"

I'm with Mama. I'd like to believe that we'll at least sense those we loved down here when we get Up There.

This week, our family said goodbye to my Uncle Billy Dave and our dear friend Jane. Those two went to church together, were full of mischief, and loved making other people laugh. I have a mental picture of Uncle Billy Dave and Uncle Jimmy showing Jane around heaven—and of angels shaking their heads at the fun-loving trio now in their midst. That's probably not a Biblical vision of the hereafter, but it makes me smile.

Daddy's family has a habit of sometimes addressing each other not by name but by family relationship: "Thank you, my cousin." If he saw me before I saw him, Uncle Billy Dave would get my attention with, "Aren't you gonna speak to your old uncle?" His father, my Uncle James, always called me "daughter." I like that. It's a constant reminder that we're connected in a special way.

My favorite memory of my uncle is from elementary school. We were having some sort of fair or carnival and I didn't have enough change to buy a candy apple I really wanted. Then I spotted Uncle Billy Dave in the crowd. Problem solved. It was a wonderful blessing, as a child, to know that I had uncles and aunts who would look after me like their own kids in those rare instances when my parents couldn't be there. Uncle Billy Dave likely never thought of that candy apple again, but I have. For me, it was just a little symbol that I could count on my uncle when the chips were down (and my nickels were low).

He came to church one Sunday in a beautiful shirt that Daddy admired. And when Daddy asked where he got it, Uncle Billy Dave said, "Jane bought it for me." Her husband had worn one just like it to church, and when my uncle commented on it, Jane said, "Well, I'll get you one." And she did.

All of us were drawn to Jane. She was so blooming funny that you had to spend a little time with her to know that, beyond her wit, there was an enormous heart. I saw it all the time when we played piano and organ for the church and started spending more time together. She was forever bringing me a piece of music she thought I might like or a candle that smelled especially good—or a pack of small stickie notes because she thought the ones I had been using were too big. She named her beagle puppies Flopsy and Mopsy. She loved the sound of a big Ford engine. She studied her Bible because she wanted an informed faith, which she daily shared in such a way that it drew people in, instead of putting them off. Our friend Randy, who spoke at Jane's service, said that when he had left his own church and was reluctant to accept Jane's invitation to ours, she finally said, "You ain't gotta run it, Randy, just come." He and his wife are part of our church family now.

WATCH: Southern Funeral Etiquette

No doubt, you have friends and family in your life who are just as special to you as Jane and Uncle Billy Dave were to me—always will be to me. Give them a hug and tell them you love them. There's so much meanness in the world. Give thanks for God's love and all the people around you who show it and share it every day.

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