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Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2014

A family funeral

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hi neighbors. Last week I attended my aunt's funeral in Stockton. She was the baby of her family -- only 78 years old. She would have been 79 during the week she died, but she missed it by two days.

That is odd. My experience with people dying shows a tendency to die just past one's birthday. It is as if that milestone needs to be crossed just once more to complete their journey. Still, and obviously, people die when they die and their birthday anniversary most likely has little to do with it.

I've heard people talk about people waiting to die until various events or certain people were at their bedside. On the flip side, people say relatives have waited for loved ones to leave their bedside before they die. I'm no expert on dying, but I do know we all die eventually.

This particular aunt had lived as long as she wanted to within the confines of the illness she had fought for six long years. Like other embattled warriors she wore her uniform of battle scars for all to see. Her aspect appeared at peace and pain free, and I trust she will remain so.

There was an entire room full of people there to say their goodbyes and share their memories of her lifetime. Like many people now do, her children had set up a display of photos depicting important times and people in her life. I really appreciate this "new" tradition and hope it continues.

I noticed the funeral parlor had a wide screen television mounted on the wall in case there were slide shows or videos to share. My aunt had neither, but I thought this even newer method of cataloging and sharing memories and timelines was an intriguing new touch.

My aunt had lived in the community of Stockton all of her life, graduated from Stockton High School and worked in Stockton and El Dorado Springs as an adult and teenager. It was obvious many people not only knew her but respected her and cherished her memory.

She had two children, a son and a daughter, who were both there with their families.

The room was already crowded when I arrived early and I found a seat in the family section next to my aunt's sister-in-law and her daughter (my aunt's other-side-of-the-family niece.)

We introduced ourselves as we had never actually met face-to-face and spent the time before the funeral trying to identify other people in the room. It seemed odd that we had all three heard my aunt talk about the other two, telling us over the years about who had babies; who was living where; who had married who, etc.

I was amazed at the family members I did not know! I knew my cousins, but not all of their children, nor did I immediately recognize their spouses or significant others.

Between the three of us comparing notes, cell phone photos, memories and lists of known names, we figured out most of them. Those we couldn't identify we simple tapped on the shoulder and asked them who they were. They were, after all, in the "family" section so they should have expected to be treated like family.

The service was very emotional as the minister had grown up knowing my aunt and her husband, also deceased. He and his wife had been next door neighbors to them for several decades, played cards with them weekly and visited back and forth on a daily basis; sharing school events with their children.

My father's generation of his family now has only one living survivor -- another aunt who is several years older than the "baby" but in better health. I hope she lives a lot longer.

I have become very aware of how big a separation in a family is created when an entire generation disappears.

Until the next time, friends, remember to cherish the elders in your family. No matter your age or theirs, they are your bridge to your heritage, just as you are their link to the future.

Nancy Malcom
The Third Cup