We gathered today at the little church in the little town where my aunt once lived to say goodbye to her. I brought my son, and a backpack full of crayons, puzzle books, and snacks. Most of the family got up and had something to say about this wonderful woman: her daughter, her son, their spouses. Her sister. Her niece. Her sister’s husband. She was loved. My son listened, and learned, that death is a part of life. Not something to fear. Not something to ignore and hide from. He learned a little bit, today, about what it means to love.
My parents shielded me from death; I did not go to funerals and memorials when I was a child. It is only now, as an adult–as I cherish the lives I have known, the loved ones who have left me–that I think I understand something of death. It is only now, having given birth to life, that I can accept death. I look at my son and I see my grandfather, and my aunt, in him. I know the chain of family will not break, not right now, because I look at us, all my cousins, with our children, such bright sparks. Through our children, we are immortal.
I think, too, today shattered the last illusion I had that believed everyone had to be special to a greater purpose or audience. It’s just not true. MTV and People magazine are selling us a lie. We don’t have to be famous. We don’t all have to be millionaires. If my aunt taught me nothing else about life (and oh, but she did, she did), she did finally get it through my head that a simple life is still a life well lived, and to be loved by family and largely unknown by the rest of the world? Well, that is still riches enough for one lifetime.
Be well, Nora. Say hello to grandpa for me.