Remembering a Legacy of Love

Another saint finished her race and I’ll miss her until we meet again. My great-aunt Barbara Wheat passed away this weekend. She was my maternal grandmother’s sister. I can’t even come close to listing all the great memories I have of spending time with her whole brood. But I’m in the mood to reminisce, so climb in with me as I give you a little tour down memory lane.

Barbara was married to Ralph Gary Buck Wheat. We called him Buck Wheat. No kidding. Their eldest son is Ralph Gary Buck Wheat II and we call him Gary. His son is Ralph Gary Buck Wheat III and we used to call him Little Buck, but not any more. He’s not Little.

Buck and Barbara have four children just a little younger than my mom and her brothers. We absolutely loved all of them. Buck and Barbara’s grandkids are a little younger than us. I remember wanting to hold one of the newborns when I was a little girl. Barbara didn’t want to tell me no, so she let me kiss their feet. Which I did. And now I do that to my kids when they want to hold babies.

I grew up seeing the Wheats about once a year, sometimes a little more, but those times were awesome. Someone had a new baby all the time and that was just about the most wonderful thing to me. The grown-ups would visit and we kids would play. Buck and Barbara’s house was a good size and there was plenty of stuff for us to get into. We girl cousins really liked to go into the youngest daughter Cindy’s room because all her cheerleading memorabilia still decorated her walls. She had awesome 80’s permed hair and I was mega-jealous. She may have still had her megaphone in her room. If she did, then we kids put that to good use to the great annoyance of the grown-ups.

When my brother, sister and I got towards the upper end of our teenage years I remember one get-together at Clay’s house (second child) where Barbara played the piano and everyone who could play a guitar had one. Mom and her cousin Sherry (Buck and Barbara’s third child) banged spoons on pots and pans. Everyone sang hymns and other songs we all new. I can’t remember if Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison” made it in there, but it’s one of the songs my brother could play from memory, so there’s a good chance it made the line-up.

I loved that get-together. I’ve been thinking over the past couple of days as to why that memory is so special to me. Best I can tell it’s because everyone was included. I belonged and we were all enjoying each other as we worshiped the Lord. If I could go back in time and recreate a moment this would be it.

It’s become a dream of mine to foster that kind of atmosphere in my home. I want all of us to play some type of instrument and for there to be impromptu jam sessions that include friends and family. This is like heaven on earth to me. My grandmother Bamzi tried to facilitate a jam session at her house each time we’d go back to Ft. Hancock. I loved the idea of it, but it seemed like it was hard to get the babies corraled and the music printed off (I don’t have any songs memorized when I play the guitar). Looking back, I sure wish I’d given those jam sessions a little more effort.

Perhaps my favorite song that usually surfaced around the Wheat’s was a duet that Sherry and Buck would sing called “If That Isn’t Love” written by Dottie Rambo. I love the way they sang it. After receiving news that Barbara had passed I looked the song up on YouTube. I’m going to link to a version that I like from the available selection, but it just doesn’t hold a candle to how good Sherry and Buck sang it.

Maybe one reason I connect with this song is because the people who sang it around me throughout my growing up years loved me. They always made me feel like I was special and had a place at the table. They took what they had and shared it with others. I’m so grateful for this incredible family and the legacy they leave to all of us.

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort–we get a full measure of that, too. 2 Cor. 1:3-5 (The Message)

I will miss Barbara. She’s reunited with her husband, mom and dad as well as many other friends and relatives. My heart hurts for our loved ones who will miss her dearly. She went hard after God and was a pioneer in pursuing a passionate relationship with God when that wasn’t exactly the norm. Her life and her love inspire me in so many ways.

What will our legacy be to our children and extended family? To our neighbors? Am I sowing into that now? Lord, help us stay focused on Your call on our life. To love people and help them connect with You.

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  1. Beautiful story, Jodi! My most sincere and heartfelt condolences. Love you.

  2. Laura Dodson says:


    I have similiar childhood memories of the Wheats. I am between Cindy and Sherry in age and we always had so much fun at the summer family reunions. We are so blessed to be members of such a loving, Christian family. Thank you for sharing about someone who was very special to me. (Barbara even made the dresses for all of my bridesmaids and my beautiful wedding dress!) I pray that my children give their families the legacy that we have had,

    I will be thinking of them all tomorrow.
    Laura (Gruben) Dodson

    • jodilafrance says:

      Thank you, Laura! I know we’re related and you mom has told me about y’all even though I can’t remember meeting you personally. I hope our paths will cross someday. I wanted to post some of the funny stories I remember, but I don’t think there’s enough space on the Internet to fully detail all the crazy-wonderful adventures of the Adams/Miller/Wheat/Shelbourne/etc. families. So I’ll just have to be sure an pass them on to the kids as I remember them. 🙂

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