It's been a hell of a month. First, we started off with the aftermath of the death of my parents' dog at the end of November. Because we are very much Dog People, this was a horrible time for us. She has about 14 years old and had been blind for five years, but she was an important part of our family, and we miss her.
Then, things got crazy with preparing for the holidays, and I got crankier and crankier, and I lost my holiday spirit. I got it back right in time for Christmas Eve. And Bill I spent Christmas Eve fighting (in the sense that I spent the entire thirty-minute drive home from my parents' party screaming at him at the top of my lungs...one of those fights). We recovered to have a very nice Christmas day, but fights like that are exhausting and a little disturbing, and I just don't like to have them.
On December 26, we found out that my mother's only sister, my grandmother's oldest daughter, my aunt and Godmother, who had been in the hospital since December 21 and had celebrated her birthday in the hospital on December 23, had passed away. She was 59 years old. The words "too soon" do not even begin to cover it. Life in her house has been very difficult in recent years because my uncle has a chronic illness that has basically taken over their lives. I don't think that there has been real happiness in that household for quite some time. And now my cousin is left, at the age of 32, to care for her father and settle the household affairs on her own...something I do not know that I could do. And my aunt is now at peace, hopefully enjoying a couple of games of cards with my grandfather and great-grandfather up beyond the pearly gates, but she is missed, and she will be missed always by those she left behind.
We just got home today from a trip to Long Island for the funeral. My sister was unable to attend, but my parents, my grandmother, and I made the trip together to say goodbye. I couldn't help but put myself in my mom's shoes and wonder what it would be like for me to have to say goodbye to my sister, who is my best friend and the person who knows me best in the entire world. I don't know that I could stand it. And I thought of what it would be like for my mother, to have to say goodbye to me or my sister, the way my grandmother had to say goodbye to her daughter. Again, I don't imagine that it could be withstood. And then I put myself in my cousin's shoes and imagined what it would be like to find myself without my mother at the age of 32. I can't imagine how I would go on. I can't even imagine wanting to.
We are lucky that we have family on the Island, and my grandmother's brother and his wife, along with their daughter and her family, opened their hearts and their homes to us and helped us through this difficult time. Uncle Brud and Aunt Loretta were there every minute for my grandmother as she said goodbye to her daughter, and my mom's cousin Barbara, along with her husband Rich and daughter Corrine, helped us to remember the good times and laugh and reminisce and realize just what it is that family is all about.
The Thomas branch of this family (that would be us) doesn't make it out to the Island that often to visit with the extended family. My grandmother lives in Florida now, and we have not been out to visit my aunt and her family in recent years, and there is not often a real concrete reason for us to make the trek out there to visit. We do get invited to family events and go to spend the day once in a while, but often other things get in the way, and it had been several years since I saw the people we reunited with during the funeral. Although the reason for the get-together was a sad one, as far as family times go, it was one of the best times I have ever had. It was amazing to see my traits reflected in my mom's cousins. It was fun to sit around and talk to people and get to see a side of them that I had not seen before. And it was amazing to see the number of family members who made the trip (sometimes several hours each way) to say goodbye to my aunt, their cousin or niece. It was a loud and rowdy group, and they joined together to see each other through a hard time. And at the center of that were my mom and my grandmother, being held up by these people that they don't even talk to that often. It was an amazing thing.
My husband comes from a large, close family, and we often spend time with them in large groups. Sometimes, in the past, I have felt a little jealous of the closeness that they share, as I don't think my family is as close as they are. But this weekend showed me that we are a lucky family because even if we don't see each other very often, there's a lot of love there. And when we needed our family this week, they were there for us. And isn't that what family is all about? It's not about who spend the most time together. It's about the ties that bind and who is there for you when the going gets tough.
I am proud to be a member of the Casey family, where my father-in-law is one of eleven children and holiday dinners can number upwards of 50 people. But I find myself after this weekend with renewed pride in my family as well, realizing that we know what family is all about and knowing that we share a lot of love, even if we don't see each other that often. I am lucky to have so many people to love me, and this weekend reminded me of that.
Rest in peace, Aunt Lynney. And may you always win at cards!