I come from a big extended family. While I only have one brother, (younger by 5 years, so I call him lil' bro) the extended family is quite large. My mother is the oldest of her siblings, 5 brothers and 5 sisters.
Sadly we have lost her oldest and her youngest brothers. And we have lost 2 of her sisters as well. One just a short while ago. Many years ago, a cousin of mine drowned while swimming in Mexico with his brother. Several years ago, a cousin of mine died of cancer.............but she had been removed from us for many years........and I barely knew her.
But as a family, we have certainly known loss. When there are as many of us as there are.........I guess that is to be expected.
Today we gathered to celebrate the life of my cousin Jeff. As reported here, he died, unexpectedly last Thursday, at the age of 48. It still seems unreal, and seeing his two younger brothers, was the moment I dreaded driving to the church today. They both spoke. They made us laugh and cry.
Some of our first cousins are spread around the country, some we didn't really know growing up, some we saw only rarely. But there was a core we saw all the time.......celebrating Thanksgivings, 4th of July's, weddings, anniversaries, and a few milestone birthdays along the way. I sat in the church foyer today, looking at many faces I didn't know.........all the many people my cousin touched in the small town where he spent his whole life. I saw the funeral director from the mortuary, who was a close friend of my cousin. I saw the same ladies from the church who arranged for lunch today, who were there a few years back when my cousin's dad, my uncle Rod had a funeral at the same church. In the midst of the crowd, were my cousins. Mostly boys.........no, sorry, mostly MEN. We are older. I'm no longer one of the few girls.........I'm one of the few women. I looked around at all my handsome cousins and realized how very blessed I am.
We have always liked each other, we have always gotten along. Whenever we gather there has always been more laughter than anything else. I have watched "the boys" play basketball on the driveway, and football in the backyard. When we were little I saw them running for Easter eggs in their little Easter suits. I was often in the kitchen with the aunts, cooking or washing dishes. Yelling at the guys to take the trash out. As we got older, there were birthdays, weddings and lots of football watching.............a few beers, and always............laughter.
Not everyone is blessed with the love of a large family............with people who come to celebrate, and who come to mourn. Today we did both.
I made sure today, to kiss everyone on the cheek, and tell them that I love them. Losing Jeff made me know that I can't take those things for granted. The people we love.................we need to tell them.
The cousins determined to get together next for a happy reason. As you grow older, there are so many reasons NOT to gather. Kids, work, obligations. All of that. We shouldn't let it stand in our way.
I am a very blessed woman. I have people around me who love me. We aren't always with one another as much as we would like. Miles separate us sometime. But I have family and friends who love me, and I love them. And when it matters............we gather.
In a recent post I shared a song from Carolyn Arends. On that same album is a song that touched me deep in my spirit when I heard it for the first time in a showcase concert in Nashville. I share it here because I've seldom heard a song that felt like I could have written it, if I had one drop of musical talent, which I don't. But Carolyn hit the nail on the head with this one. And it feels like she was writng for me.
So loved ones who read this............this song means a lot to me. On a better day I could figure out how to make it fit on my blog............but for today, click on it to go watch it on YouTube in full screen.
"We are reaching for the future, we are reaching for the past. And no matter what we have, we reach for more. We are desperate to discover, what is just beyond our grasp. Maybe that's what heaven is for."