As I stood at the graveside services, the smell of fresh cut grass and the slight scent of cow manure was flooding my senses. This smell was a comfort to me, as memories of my childhood running through the pastures of my home began to fill my thoughts. The man we were all laying to rest worked the very ground he was being placed in, loved the woman dearly that he left behind, and stamped a lasting legacy upon the hearts of his children and grandchildren. I was introduced to him the summer of August, 2001, when my husband to be, Jake, took me out to the Pruitt farm for a going away party. The visits after that first meeting were few and far between, but each time I came to Bob and Jean Anne’s home, I was greeted with a mischievous smile from Bob, and hugs from Jean Anne with an offer for something to eat. As I stood in graveyard built and tended by various members of the family, I became inspired to make my mission here on this earth as simple as they did. They took care of the Lord’s business by tending to others, worked hard for everything they owned, and loved each other with a deep sense of respect and dedication.
My ears were filled with inspirational stories as I listened in to the different conversations about Bob and Jean Anne from the various family members and friends who were at the family plot. The main theme emerging from each of the amazing stories was put others first. At the funeral, they spoke of a time when the heating element in the stove went out at Christmas time, and the decision had to be made to either fix the element, or buy gifts for their six children. Christmas was one of those times that Bob and Jean Anne used to serve others. She would cook goodies for those less fortunate and make gift baskets for the family to deliver. This was one of the many services they did through the simple act of preparing food. Bob decided to buy the heating element, and as the family went to make the purchase, they won a contest at the store for being the 100th customer, and were given a huge stocking full of gifts. By choosing others over self, it seemed as if the Lord was rewarding them for their selflessness. They were able to make the goodies, and have gifts for their children. How many of us would have made this decision? To sacrifice perhaps the happiness of our children on one of the most magical times of the year, for others. Bob and Jean Anne realized their mission on this earth, to serve others no matter what difficulties they may face for choosing to do so. I am sure because of the character instilled in their children, the kids were pulling for the heating element to be fixed as well, because they understood the purpose of giving to others.
Bob and Jean Anne lived on the same piece of land their whole married lives. Bob built the home they lived in with his own hands, and made repairs and add ons as the years went by. They were farmers and tended to the land and grew produce that would feed their family and others. My husband still remembers Aunt Jean Anne ringing a chicken’s neck so they would be able to eat it later on that day. They raised livestock and took in strays. They would include their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews in the work that had to be done and through this work, created a work ethic still centered around putting others first. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 warns us about idleness and states “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat”. It goes on to explain how we must not grow weary in doing good, and how we should work in quietness and eat our own bread. This family was an example of this concept. They worked the land and tended to the animals that would feed themselves and others all while doing good with the things that they were blessed with.
This amazing couple also loved each other and their family with a deep dedication. I heard of so many people speak of this love, especially the love they shared as a husband and a wife. Their kids, now adults with children of their own, would smile as they spoke of the way Bob always complimented Jean Anne. He shared his love for his wife with their children creating a deep sense of security within them. I am sure they all felt safe in the love that their parents had for each other. I feel this is a vital trait we as husbands and wives must develop. We must express to our mates, and our children how much the other means to us. This creates a stable atmosphere within the home, and a type of security that children need to thrive as they grow older. We are commanded in the scriptures as wives to respect our husbands, and as husbands, they are to love and protect their wives. Bob and Jean Anne imitated this love and endured many years of a happy marriage because of these traits they choose to express to each other.
Jake and I were marveling at how Bob and Jean Anne raised six children in their small farmhouse. We were recalling how the times we visited, the house would be crammed full of people, and none of them really seemed to mind because they were together. I began to wonder if the size of the house played a role in how tight knit the family was. There were hardly any places for privacy, and they all shared a room with one or the other. Bob would have to move furniture out of the way to create a space of the kids to ride around on his back while he pretended to be a bucking bull. I can’t help but wonder if this is where they developed this servant type attitude as they all grew in love in their small house. They all, I am sure, made personal sacrifices to live in close quarters with one another, but it seems as if in the end, they are a stronger family because of this. As Christians, we too, must develop this type of “close quarters” kind of love with each other. We must try to not leave room for personal space, and stay involved in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, loving them and encouraging them as we make our journey to heaven.
This family caused me to reflect a lot on my life and where I stand when it comes to putting others first. They caused me to respect our monetary earnings more as we work for them. They caused me to express my love for my husband more outwardly to him, and to my children. And finally, they showed me how to break down the boundaries and love my family with all I have. I thank the Lord for these amazing people, and how through my husband, I have been able to be inspired and rejuvenated by their example.