Family and friends gathered yesterday to pay their last respects to my niece, Terri Ross. I have been more or less “out of touch” with Terri and her siblings for years, hearing about them from their mother, getting holiday cards, seeing them occasionally at funerals. Only recently did Terri begin an email correspondence and share some photos of her sweet children. There had never been any animosity between any of us, just the natural distance that often comes after a divorce. Terri’s mother and my brother have been divorced and re-married for many years. Life goes on.
As we sat in the church I kept thinking about “family” and what it means. As much as we would like to stay in touch with everyone who shares our DNA, it isn’t possible anymore. I’m not sure it ever was. Even in my grandmother’s generation there were family members who headed West, never to be heard from again. Yet, we are still part of a family. I saw my mother’s face when I looked at Terri’s sister Megan. I saw my own brother’s eyes when I looked at her brother, Jason. Terri’s children carry the genes of our family even though they will now most likely be raised by her husband in South Texas, and perhaps one day by a step-mom. Life goes on.
I also thought about the way we think about death. The service yesterday was a bit different from others I’ve attended, yet had many of the same rituals. We grieved yesterday for our loss. Terri is with Jesus and no longer needs us. But her absence will be felt by her family, especially her children, for years to come. Life goes on, but little changes occur in our heart and soul when we lose someone we love. So we pity our own plight, for a while at least. We struggle to figure out how we will do without the person who has left. Terri had very little physical impact on my life, but because I know my brother and her mother are hurting without her, I feel their pain.
So life goes on. I started today thanking God that my children are alive, that I am well and able to do the things I need to do today, and that I have been blessed by a large and loving family…even if we don’t always stay in touch.