I went to a funeral today for my dad’s cousin’s wife.
Most people don’t even KNOW their dad’s cousin’s wife, much less her sister and their grandkids and even the ex-in-laws.
But I do.
So much so that I shed tears today because I will miss Elizabeth.
She’s not just a relative – she was engaged in my life, interested in me and in my vocation and the things I love.
Yes, she was 65 and not directly related to me.
But she was always like an aunt to me.
And the thing about it is, she’s not the only one. When I talked to her daughters yesterday, they both knew me by name, where I lived, and knew I wasn’t my sister. Some people who have known me all my life can’t do that. But Julie and Denise, who I haven’t seen in years, knew all of that.
And I knew all of that about them. I knew which one had had breast cancer; I picked out their kids, even though some of them were 4 last time I saw them; I knew them.
I knew them because Dennis & Elizabeth made sure I knew them. And I’m sure that’s why they knew me.
It’s been a very long few months in my life. I’ve been wrestling with some pretty major decisions and struggling with some pretty significant questions. It’s been a dark time. Yesterday afternoon, I drove through the gorgeous Southern Illinois landscape with a CD in, barely listening.
And there was God.
In the words or in the hills or in the silence, I don’t know. But as clearly as I type this, I heard the voice of God say to me, “The pain is worth it. The end is worth it. You will be with me. And you are deeply loved.”
“Yeah, ok, God, I know that. You love me. Whatever.”
But I am deeply loved by a TON of people! In a room full of family, I felt more like myself today and yesterday than I have in probably 6 months. Not because I was “with” them, and certainly not because of where we were or the reason we were together. Because I was surrounded by people who know my story and love me – both for it and in spite of it.
Catching up with second and third cousins, touching base with people who are such distant relatives I don’t even know how to tell you who they are (though I can trace the line for you of how we’re related), meeting (again) cousins (of some sort) in my generation and finding we’re significantly alike, sharing a hotel room with my dad, teasing his uncle, meeting their childhood friends. It made me wish I had grown up with all of them. That I had that circle. That there was a strong connection with people who have loved me my whole life. That I had grown up in a town of 100 people, playing in the pond, walking the streets, and my closest friends being my cousins.
That’s not my life.
But it is. I did grow up with all of them – they were just the adults in my story, not the kids. I have that circle. Those same people who love my dad and my grandma to their guts love me, too. They’ve loved me since before I was born.
I didn’t grow up with them as kids, but I grew up with them. And they’re amazing people.
It broke my heart to lose Elizabeth.
But it sure was good to be with my family today.
I am a lucky woman to have been born into this tribe.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.