Funerals and Families

I’ve lived away from my family for over 30 years now.

But, you know what makes me the most homesick?

Funerals.

I know that sounds morbid, and obviously, I’m not a fan of people dying.

But, over the years, I’ve missed some important funerals.

Maybe the worst was my Grandma’s.

I made it to Utah in time to see her before she died, but then she passed away as soon as I returned home.

At least I had the chance to kiss her soft, wrinkly cheek, and tell her I loved her.

I missed one of my favorite uncle’s funerals too.

And, yesterday, I missed my aunt’s funeral.

Aunt Maxine was a beauty — inside and out. She died of cancer after fighting it for about four years.

maxine

I saw her a few times after that and was always impressed by her energy, smile, and optimism.

But, I knew she was tired.

Fighting cancer is exhausting, and Aunt Maxine lived on the fragile precipice for a long time — knowing there would likely be a sheer, fatal drop if she decided to quit fighting.

The only benevolent thing about cancer is that it usually gives time for goodbyes.

I felt so homesick yesterday for my family — that extensive, beautiful, sturdy hammock of sorts that always has a space for me.

I kept thinking how we can move far away from each other; but we are always connected, even if it’s only by common ancestors.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/126802798/family-like-branches-on-a-tree-large

Homey images of Sunday afternoons in the mountains floated in and out of my mind with sights of thick canopies of leafy trees shading us as we gathered for family reunions. I could see us gathering around picnic tables, and helping Grandma unpack her car –hauling out her pink macrame lawn chair, a Lady Betty cake and batches of homemade raisin-filled sugar cookies.

I remembered my graceful, kind Aunt Maxine — her smile and laugh; her stories, and her little Shih-tzu puppy sitting on her lap.

I thought of how many years she owned and worked at a rest home; and how she loved every person there like they were her own family.

When Mom told me about the church where they held the funeral, I knew exactly what it looked like and how it must have felt to be there.

When she told me about the burial and the cemetery, I pictured all the relatives from my mom’s family gathering around Aunt Maxine’s gravesite. And, I couldn’t help but imagine my Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Sherm, and many others there too — angels everywhere; filling up all the empty spaces.

I know they wouldn’t miss Aunt Maxine’s funeral.

I imagined that it must be easier for them to travel than for me. They probably didn’t have to pay exorbitant last-minute airfares or cope with weather delays.

While my family has never been perfect or even close to it; we share a history, name, and DNA.

I read this poem on a blog called Toadilly Homemade:

What lasts?

Ice cream melts.

Flowers wilt.

The leaves of autumn fall.

Sunsets fade.

Seasons change, and

Children don’t stay small.

Balloons pop.

Snowfalls stop.

Do summers last? Never!

Weekends fly.

Today will die.

But…

Families are Forever.

Somehow, that makes everything better for me.

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