Friday, August 18, 2023

When My Little Brother Gets Married

"How do you feel about Vaun getting married?" 

I've been asked this question countless times in the last months. And I never knew what to say, because three emotions are equally true.

1. I'm delighted that Vaun found a lovely woman to share his life. As one who experienced a wonderful marriage, I wish it for others.

2. We will miss Vaun. While others may guess, they don't truly know how much Vaun has done for us the past four years.

3. But while this will bring change for our family, we've weathered change in the past so surely we will again.

So who is Vaun? And why will we miss him?

Vaun is my youngest brother, born just before my twentieth birthday. Of course I dearly loved my sweet baby brother, but with the huge age gap, I didn't relate to him nearly as much as the brothers close to my age. I was busy and flying in-and-out of the house as twenty-year-olds with jobs and a full social calendar do. 

Vaun was six when I married and, in the coming years, he became an adored uncle to my children. They loved going to Grandpa and Grandma's house where Uncle Vaun and Aunt Charity poured attention on them.

Then Vaun grew up and became the busy teen with job and friends. He lived life on high gear, trying to fill his days with six more activities than he had time for.

When Ed was diagnosed with brain cancer, Vaun was in training for ministry in the Middle East. He spent almost two years teaching English to refugees. He returned home just weeks before Ed's death, immediatly sliding into a role of helping with Ed's care.

After Ed's death, Vaun was very deliberate in his care for our family. He spent every Thursday evening at our house, sometimes working on a house project, other times playing games with the children. He went on vacation with our family and took us on a volunteer work project. He spent hours remodeling a rental property for us. 

I battled a bit of guilt, feeling that Vaun had set aside his plans and goals for our family, though he claimed he was doing exactly what he wanted to do.

We had nearly survived our first year without Ed when Covid hit. Vaun asked if he could move into our house to help with some projects while he was off work. Our bedrooms are small, and he slept on a floor mat sqeezed between my sons' beds. But he stayed with us for the next three and a half year, until his wedding. 

I can't begin to describe all the ways Vaun helped us during those years. It was more than repairing the bathroom ceiling, making coffee each morning, and changing the oil in vehicles. My oldest turned sixteen the week after he moved in. We were entering new territory with new drivers, car purchases, phones, and jobs. Having another adult in the house was a huge gift. While I'm sure we would have muddled through alone somehow, I'm grateful we didn't have to. 

The children's attitudes were much better with an uncle around. But I'll admit that mine was too. For example, after Ed's death, it had been very hard to cook meals. I know it was silly because I still had six children to cook for, but the meals I placed on the table were rather pitiful. Vaun's arrival breathed new life into all of us, helping us care about things like a clean house and carefully prepared meals. 

Vaun helped my boys start a little mowing business, showing them how to send invoices and track spending and income. When my oldest son finished school, he began working with Vaun in construction, a job he seems to enjoy. Helping my boys find employment had been a worry for me.

Vaun joined us in our projects, taking us on trips and visiting our friends. But he also allowed us to join him in his projects. I was floundering to figure out my role in church and ministry as a widow, and this was such a gift. Whether it was sawing wood for Bible School crafts, planning meals for the TESOL class he organized, or planning a picnic for a Ukrainian refugee family - Vaun's enthusiasm for ministry pulled us into projects and expanded our lives in healthy ways.

I don't want to turn this into a eulogy, but i thank the Lord for my little brother and his willingness to come alongside our family. He claims to have loved the last few years, and I hope he has. We will miss his Saturday pancake breakfasts, his bedtime stories, and adult conversations. But we are thrilled that Emily agreed to be his wife and look forward to watching the Lord bless their commitment to Him. They bought a house nearby, and we hope to continue to be part of their lives.

Here is a glimpse of the wedding.

Dad was able to enjoy the wedding, though it was the week of his chemo treatment. So gratful for the good health he currently has. 

The whole clan! When you are the last of nine to marry, you have a large family photo.

The newest little ones.

Vaun and Emily with his nieces and nephews.

The nine siblings.

One of the songs we sang at Vaun and Emily's wedding was "Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart." This has been a favorite song of mine for years, but I don't think I ever heard it at a wedding. But I thought it was quite fitting.

  1. Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart
  2. By George Croly

  3. Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
    Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move.
    Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
    And make me love Thee as I ought to love.
  4. Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
    All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
    I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling:
    Oh, let me seek Thee, and, oh, let me find!
  5. Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
    Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
    To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
    Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
  6. Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
    One holy passion filling all my frame;
    The kindling of the heav’n-descended Dove,
    My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.

Here is a video of the song arranged by Lloyd Kauffman.


  1. I enjoyed reading about how close your family has become to your brother. It would be so lovely if all families that the closeness that yours seem to share. The wedding looks lovely and like it was a beautiful day.

  2. This is an inspiring testimony. Your family sounds like a blessing to one another!

  3. This was beautiful to read Gina. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into what Christ-like serving looks like. Blessings.

  4. What a beautiful example of loving what Jesus loves, and loving as Jesus loves. Such an inspiring servant heart. Blessings to Vaun and Emily! - Mary Kathryn

  5. What a beautiful testimony to the faithfulness of God to provide in so many ways through your brother and a tribute to your parents in their efforts of raising a child to be a blessing to others, as clearly he has been. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Vaun was a missionary in the truest sense. How blessed to have a brother like him. Gods hand directly upon your family!

  7. Gina, what a blessing your brother was to your family as you acclimated to your lives without your beloved husband and father. God certainly knew just what you needed and will be with you in your future. All we can do is trust Him one day at a time.

  8. I’ve had a hard time smiling lately, but this made my heart joyful.

  9. I wonder how many other non-Mennonites are just a wee bit jealous of the big family you are a part of! Best wishes to the newlyweds, and to you, Gina, thank you for sharing what your sweet brother has meant to you. This touched a chord in me, as my mother also became a widow at a young age, and her brother moved in with our little family until he himself got married. That uncle remained a rock for me as long as he lived, and he and his wife were like beloved grandparents for my children.

  10. This was a beautiful and moving post, Gina. I've been a reader for years (since I was looking up information on Tattler lids!). I always appreciate your vulnerability and openness, and how you point us back to the gospel. Thank you for sharing about your brother and his joyful, sacrificial love. -Melissa


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