Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Brothers and Sisters

In the midst of the party excitement, my family had some sad news to digest. My father's youngest sister, Martha, passed away last week. She was 52, and died of a massive stroke. It was very unexpected.

My father's family is not that large. There are about 10 of us now. Stark contrast to my mom's family, and even more so to my husband's family.

As a result of the small family, my sister and I felt it would be really good if we could go to the service. We weren't exactly close to this aunt, but wanted to be there for our cousins and dad. And since there are so few of us on that side, we knew our presence would be missed.

So we, with the wonderfully loving husband in tow, drove the five hours to her service Monday, and then turned around and drove the five hours back. It was a long day, but I'm very glad we went, to be there for our family, if not only for the words my father spoke at the service.

My father, the pastor, amazes me. How he is able to put on his preacher face and lead in the midst of grief I will never understand. He led the whole service, which was beautiful. And when the time came for the sermon/homily/honoring of the one who had passed, his words were peaceful and comforting, and quite beautiful.

He talked about brothers and sisters. And how the relationship between and among siblings is like no other. He used two quotes that he sent to us after the service, and me being a quote person, I latched on to them quickly:

"To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each others' hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time." –Clara Ortega

"Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk." –Susan Scarf Merrell

As I was listening to him, I got to thinking about my sister and our relationship, and how we travel through life sharing something with our siblings that we can't share with anyone else in the same way. Sure, our parents were there for our childhoods, and probably remember it better than we do. But that shared experience of living through growing up together not only affects who we are and how we see each other, but how we relate to one another once the growing up is done.

It has been a hard time for my family. It's one thing to bury your parents, you expect to do that sometime in your life. And the grief of burying a child must be on an entirely different plane. But the experience of burying a sibling is one I have never much contemplated before.

The words he added at the end of the service: "Go with God into the dawn of that new day and wait for us—we are on our way."

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