It may seem odd that I am writing about thankfulness two days after going to a funeral, the sixth funeral this year for my family. And yet with each funeral, each family gathering, I have walked away with an overwhelming sense of peace and belonging. It’s been a very difficult year, and yet at the same time, this family always pulls inward and gets through the hard stuff together.
My mom was the ninth of eleven children. I am the fifty-second of fifty-five grandchildren. I can’t even tell you where my children fall in line in the next generation, there are so many. When I was younger, the whole family gathered often for holiday parties and summer picnics in the park. My grandparents were always a part of the fun, although my Grandma died when I was seven. The gatherings that I don’t remember are well-documented in photographs, which are rapidly becoming prized possessions.
Our family’s losses started in the 70s and have staggered through the years. However, this past year has been almost unreal. On May 5, 2008, my Uncle Bill died in a hunting accident. After he had defeated cancer, it was an incredible shock to lose him so suddenly. In March of 2009, my mom’s eldest sister-my Aunt Marian-passed away after a short illness. Two months later, on May 7, 2009, we lost Uncle Bob to cancer. And just last Friday, we lost Uncle Ken, again, to cancer. Add to that my husband’s grandma’s passing in August 2008 and my grandma (my dad’s mom) passed away this past June.
A part of loss, a part of grieving these deaths is gathering together with the rest of the family and celebrating the loved ones who are now gone. It’s a powerful love, in our family, that reaches out across eleven families, hundreds of people. There is strength in our numbers, in our memories, in our hands that reach out to everyone else. Our family bond carries a colorful, well-lived past, a busy, exciting and prideful present, and a hopeful future where the sky is the limit.
At Uncle Ken’s funeral Tuesday, Father John said that as much as his family loves him, God loves him more. As a practicing Catholic, I guess I have to believe that. But as a part of the whole, extended family, and as a witness to the life he lived with his wife, children and grandchildren, I have to wonder if that’s possible.
As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, my heart breaks for those in my family who have lost loved ones this year. I can’t imagine the holidays without my mom and dad, without my husband and his family, without my children. And yet, as someone who has always loved the holidays and each year takes out those very special memories of Thanksgiving dinners at Aunt Fran’s and Grandpa’s house and Christmas at Aunt Joan’s house, I am filled with love and joy and gratitude. I am one of the youngest of the grandchildren, and since we are spread across the United States now, I don’t often see many of my cousins. I’m quiet, and I don’t always know what to say to people, especially in times of sorrow. But I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you. I thank God for making me a part of this family. I am so very proud to be a member of this family, and though I don’t often have the opportunity to say so and I don’t always take the opportunity when it is presented to me, I love you all. I thank all of you, each and every one of you, for being a part of my life. And I would like to say a special thanks to my grandparents, my parents, and my aunts and uncles. Each of you has contributed to the person I am today, and I carry you with me every day, everywhere I go.
Luther’s Cross, Wings E Press
What they are saying about Luther's Cross:
Luther’s Cross, the newest book by author Therese Kinkaide, should come with a warning label: Caution-This book may inhibit the reader’s ability to turn off the light and sleep. Luther’s Cross is a well-crafted story that delves into both the heart and mind of a young woman tortured by her past and unable to take hold of her future. Ellie is stuck with the heartache, guilt and grief over the loss of Luther, her young son. http://www.theresekinkaide.com/Novels.html