Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saying Good Bye

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Today I attended the funeral for another cousin that passed away. A poem read referred to this as another limb of the family tree fallen. During such occasions the memories stacked up like the cards we get later, full of glimpses of times past. Gary was one of the older cousins, our dads were first cousins, sons of favorite sisters. Our families visited back and forth for many years. Sunday afternoons spent in conversations and eating cake doughnuts, that Howard felt were the best.
I looked over the old photographs in the curio and album. I think of Howard and Mary's bedroom crammed with three cribs of Terry, Gary and Kim, causing Great Uncle Dave to come to West Middlesex and our doorstep for his last fourteen years of life. My brother remarked how the surviving brother and all of them resembled Uncle Dave, the Thompson's.
I remember admiring the youngest sister Debbie, who survived a diabetic coma when she was eighteen. Gary's care-taking, mentioned over and over, during the service started with Debbie. Debbie lived for ten more years, with no more mental capacity than a four year old. But so loving, I'm sure because of the love she received from her parents and brothers. I can still hear Mary's wail when they had to close the casket in that same room I sat in this morning from 1978. Howard and Gary stood strong for Mary.
Howard, too, was laid out in this room twenty two years ago. He died a few years after my father. The family less gray then.
Six years ago in September, we said good bye to Mary. That was the first funeral after my mother died, again through the same funeral home in the same room. Mary, so kind, sending me cards at Christmas with notes about my children. She always welcomed children. This was a raw time for me, as so many my mom's generation seemed to be slipping away that summer.
Gary was as kind and generous, as his parents. I often drove down his street, but in this new day, we need telephone numbers before we barge in. I, on my job, felt rushed and never at leisure to attempt a visit. I think how he wouldn't have minded. He was never at a loss of words. He never spoke badly of anyone.
Today, we only have memories. But Gary, as well as his father, mother, and my father, lived a strong faith in Jesus.  Faith lived through love, hardships, and heartache. The kind of faith that doesn't shout, but neighbors know by seeing lives. A difference sensed more than proclaimed. A feeling of being home with someone who really loves you is how I felt with this family from before I could form words.
Mostly cousins sat in the room. We are the older generation, now, most of us grandparents. Gary never married, but the room was full. A first cousin on his mother's side became his caregiver. From what I heard, it sounded like with my dad, Gary never gave up hope he would live more days as he dealt with this last illness. I am proud of these men in my families. I am grateful to have had them in my life.
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