Today we went to my aunt and uncle’s home for their annual Fourth of July gathering and had a very nice time visiting with family and extended family. My dad comes from a family of nine children, so there are always plenty of people – and great food!
This holiday is a little sadder as I looked around at the group, knowing that we are all hurting. I realize it is a first for many of us – all of us there. It is a first Fourth of July without my mom, without a set of cousins’ mom (who is also my godmother), and it is a first without another set of cousins’ dad. Three of the aunts and uncles in less than a year have died…and only two years since another aunt died. My uncle was buried the day my Mom died…very sad indeed.
However, I have to say that I absolutely admire this family…my Dad’s siblings. They could easily let grief make them bitter…God knows they have seen a lot of hardship in their lives. Their mom (my grandmother whom I never met) died at the young age of 48 years. My Dad’s siblings were still very young children and my Dad was only in his early twenties. A few years later their dad (my Grandpa) died at 56. Since that time they lost a stepmother (Grandpa had remarried) and two brothers (including my Dad) at very young ages. My Dad was only 48, his brother was 55.
This family has inspired me today as I watch them and as I reflect on the pain that I have seen them feel with each death. I have heard of families torn apart by grief and bitterness. My Dad’s family gets stronger. Their love for each other is so evident. Their willingness to put their own hurt aside to be there for each other even when it feels too hard. They take time with each other and have made it a priority over the years to get together at least monthly for dinner. Their love for each other and family is so very strong that I can’t help but be amazed by them. I love them so very much…
The last few days have been hard ones for me again. I feel the heaviness in my heart – and folks…it IS your heart that hurts! Sometimes the grief causes your mind to wander to the place your pain is coming from. I’m lucky enough to have a husband that knows me inside out and calls me back from that place when he sees me going there. As I was sitting with two of my sisters today, I silently wondered if they felt like I do, or if I’m the odd man out – the one that struggles with the hurt. Suddenly, one of my sister’s eyes filled with tears and she walked away for a few minutes to collect herself. My other sister and I looked at each other and understood…we both understood.
My siblings and I are having a get together tomorrow. It will be our first since Mom died. I know we will have tears, and I know it will be hard. I also know that we are determined to follow in my Dad’s family’s footsteps. Are we a perfect family? Of course not…there is no such animal…but we genuinely love each other. Together, these 11 siblings who lost their Dad way too young, are going to come together after the death of their Mom, and we will try to plant a seed of inspiration in our children’s lives – because that is what love is supposed to do. Thank you Mom and Dad…