Thinking about Families: loss and love

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So many variations of family themes this past week. One of my dear friends from my Humboldt County days died thirty-three years ago on March 28. A tragedy, senseless, struck and killed while running by a  Sunday afternoon drunk driver. She left behind four darling children and a brilliant, caring husband. I am becoming acquainted with her children now as adults–several years older than Jill when she died. They are bright, funny, kind, family-oriented with children of their own. They seem to truly care and are best friends with one another. It is almost trite to say how proud their mother would have been of them if she’d lived. Jill is a huge part of who they are as is their father. I am blessed beyond words to have shared a friendship, albeit too briefly, with Jill, to still remain friends with Jack and to start friendships with their children these thirty-plus years later. A broken family that came together to be a model for many of us.

I just passed another birthday in early March, this first time with neither parent alive. I miss them daily; I was fortunate to be part of their lives for so many years (Dad died at age 89 and Mom at age 91). They are sorely missed. Their deaths were not tragic as their lives were more full than they’d ever imagined with friends, travel, fulfilling jobs, grandchildren, curious until just days before their respective deaths. Our children remember their grandparents, from the funny stories, the dedications at Whitman College to my father, their grandfather, the attendance at graduations and weddings by my mother. My siblings and I were adults when our parents died; perhaps the greatest gift was bringing us together to help each of our parents through their final months and weeks. We found one another again, the family ties even though our daily lives are distinct and separate.

My new neighbor’s husband died recently, unexpectedly on a cruise they’d taken to finally have a break after almost two years of caring for her ill brother. She is heart-broken and while I try to touch base with her, go for walks and coffee, healing will be slow. She’s an artist and gardener and will be able to show her loss in the beauty around her. A different kind of loss as we see friends our age or slightly older or younger lose family members. How does one measure the heartache, the loneliness, the change in daily routine? Her young grandson reminds her of her husband in his visage from recent photos. She can take solace in Rich’s full life, friendships and family, but she will still grieve.

Different families, different times, different situations. Ultimately we share family and remembrances and stories. We rejoice in the lives of those with whom we found such love and caring. We savor the relationships that developed from them.

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