The Hard Goodbyes

My grandparents were blessed with eight children. After the birth of four girls – in a row – I wonder if Grandpa ever worried that there would be no sons to carry on the family name. It must have seemed that way at times, but finally, my oldest uncle was born, followed by another daughter and two more sons.

Once the kids started arriving, there was never a time when estrogen didn’t beat testosterone. At least not until this morning.

Their second child died in 2002 after a couple of decades of poor health caught up with her. In 2008, the eldest fell victim to cancer. Today, our family had to bid farewell to the youngest daughter.

We knew it was coming and many of us were able to get in to visit with her, to tell her how much we loved her – or at least show her, to say goodbye without actually saying the words.

While waiting for the call, for the news none of us wanted to hear, I – and probably most of my siblings and cousins – spent a lot of time visiting the past. Back when the biggest worry in life was how many more days until holidays or summer vacation arrived. When death only happened in movies or, if it did impact us, whoever it was really didn’t matter because we were too young to understand what it meant to value the people in our lives. We lived for the moment, and there were some great moments to remember.

The big, extended family Christmas Eve parties. Vacations at the lake when the whole lot of us packed ourselves into three, sometimes four cabins for an entire week. Ball games, picnics, potlucks, birthdays… There was always a good (or at least good enough) reason to get together with the people we loved the most.

It was a wonderful family to grow up in, to be a part of. But like all families must experience, we lose beloved members for many reasons. Illness, old age, accidents. Whatever the cause, it’s never easy to say the hard goodbyes, whether it’s to their face or after they’re gone.

My heart goes out to my cousins, her children. They lost their father almost eight years ago, so this will be doubly hard for them. Someone once said, “Grief is the price we pay for love,” and they – more than most – understand that today.

As they learn to adjust to this new normal in their lives, I know they will never lose sight of the wonderful woman their mother was.

A woman who loved her family – both human and four-legged – with her whole heart. Who always seemed to see the good in others, who never judged anyone by the color of their skin, the way they wore their hair, or how they dressed.

It’s going to be hard for a long time to come, but she’ll always live on in their hearts. Her smile, her laughter, her love … they’ll never be more than a memory away.

To my aunt, I would just like to say, I love you very much, and I’m going to miss you more than I can express. But you know what? I’m not going to wish for you to rest in peace. Instead, I wish for you to dance in heaven with your husband. I wish for you to laugh and have a grand reunion with my dad, Grandma and Grandpa, and all of the sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends who were there to welcome you this morning.


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