View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Monday, January 10, 2011

A man called Joe.

Jeri's Mom, Millie, and Joe - Christmas 2010

Psa 119:63 I am a friend of all who serve you, of all who obey your laws.

2Co 4:8-9 We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.

This is about a man named Joe, a family friend of Jeri’s extended family. I first met Joe years ago at some family function that has been long forgotten. He was accompanying Jeri’s Aunt Lois as her driver because she did not like driving long distances. He was a quiet, behind the scenes type of guy, but if you engaged him in conversation, he was friendly and articulate.

Living in Oregon we seldom were able to attend family gatherings but the ones we did, Joe was always there with Lois.  Relatives would share pictures of events we missed and, again, Joe would appear in some with Lois or others.

Aunt Lois passed away in January of 2002, but over the subsequent years, Joe has continued to be invited and has joined in many of the celebrations, functions and holidays that the Burlingame/Kirby clan has held.

This past Christmas Jeri and I were privileged to be able to join in the family gathering at our nieces’ home with her husband, John, and their two children. And there again was Joe, just as unassuming and quiet as always. As the evening was winding down, I realized that I really didn’t know much about him, so I decided to “interview” this unique character that has been an integral part of the Burlingame/Kirby clan for several decades.

Joe first met Lois in 1983 at a church choir rehearsal. He had just started attending that church and wanted to participate in the choir. He was placed next to Lois who was about 73 at the time and Joe was somewhere in his thirties (an assumption on my part as I neglected to tie down that fact). This became a true friendship over the years, sort of a mother/son relationship. All of Joe’s family lived in Texas and he was seldom able to visit them.

Joe introduced Lois to Garrison Keillor and the Prairie Home Companion radio program. They would get together some evenings and listen to Garrison and just enjoy the good times.

As Lois aged, Joe would take her to doctor appointments and run other errands for her. Lois always invited him to all the family gatherings – as long as he would drive either her car or his. After Lois passed away, the family has continued to invite Joe to every gathering, and he has faithfully attended because he is part of this family. He has been adopted into it – for better or worse.

Family isn’t always about blood relations. It is about relationships, long standing relationships that have withstood the test of time. I think of my church family that represents time tested relationships with people that will always be there for each other. I am blessed with several couples and friends that share thanksgiving dinner with us every year that are considered family. We have friends in California that we make sure we visit because they are as important to us as family relatives.

As I look back on all these relationships, the one common thread is God. We are all part of the family of God. We have all been adopted into God’s family through our relationship with Jesus, all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Joe became part of a family through a friendship with Lois. It developed over time. The friendship met the needs of two different people, both blessed by each other, both blessed by God.

This year try and make an effort to draw someone into your family, someone who may not have a family or just needs a family nearby. You will not believe the blessings that will come from that gesture.


  1. Aha, now I know why you wanted a pic of Joe! Good comments here. The last time I saw Aunt Lois was when she got into Joe's car to go home at Thanksgiving. She died before Christmas that year. We are very lucky that we have him "in" our family.

  2. Great article, Mike. Joe has just always seemed like family ~ he just fit in with all of us. Donna Held

  3. Hey Mike,
    What a nice story about a man called Joe! Thanks for sharing it. I agree. It doesn't always take blood to be family and that it takes relationship. Very nicely written interview, Mike. Glad you were able to enjoy Christmas with your California family this year. Have a great and healthy New Year for you, Jeri, and all. God bless.
    Sharon D.

  4. Hey Uncle Mike,
    Thanks for the article. I never forget how blessed I am that when I married Susan, I got to have all of you in my life as well. I think back to the first time I ever met you and your family, how you guys just sucked me right into your lives like I'd always been part of you. I remember meeting Chuck again a little after we got married and how he introduced himself to a friend of mine as being my cousin. Not "Susan's cousin", but mine, and that made all the difference in the world. This whole-hearted adoption came not only from Chuck but from every member of the Burlingames, Rayburns, Helds, Querys and the rest of the "family." United in marriage, bonded by love and sealed together in Christ...what an adventure with all you White people! Love to you and Aunt Jeri. :)