Yesterday, I received a call at 8am. It was my mother, calling to let me know that my aunt, Virgina, had passed. Eleven weeks ago, Virg was diagnosed with brain cancer after a fall. Eleven weeks ago, doctors said she had a few days left to live. As devout lifelong Catholic, I like to think she negotiated with the man upstairs. Though bedridden, those extra days allowed her to celebrate Easter in her home hospice room, have a nibble of cake on her 48th wedding anniversary, and say goodbye to loved ones. Perhaps, most importantly, those extra days gave my uncle time to accept his impending loss, to practice patience, and to care for his wife as she had so tenderly cared for him. Virg was a ray of sunshine–one of those people who is so positive, kind, and complimentary that it is almost irritating–and so many will miss her warm presence, myself included.
Yesterday, four hours after my aunt’s passing, my father called. My sister had landed at Sky Harbor. This was her first time coming home since December 2019, and the first time bringing home her boyfriend of two years. There has been tension between my mom and sister due to a splintering of values and political leanings, but it all but dissolved when we were in the same room together. We laughed, told stories, looked at childhood pictures, and reminisced about ridiculous children’s songs and a lift-the-flap book of medieval folk sitting on the castle poop chute. We couldn’t decided whether we either had an amazing childhood, or if it was somewhat disturbed. We also learned that the boyfriend likes circus peanuts and concluded that he must be a psychopath to enjoy industrial sugared Styrofoam.
A friend’s mother passed away recently. Another friend is moving to better accommodate new baby. My extended family is a planning a (delayed) family reunion in Las Vegas. My dad and uncle spend Sunday afternoons playing board games with their 91-year-old parents. Once a month, my dad and I play-test my brother’s board games, which are actually quite impressive. My mom is fostering a pregnant tuxedo car that showed up at her workplace. (Suggestions for art-themed cat names welcomed! She’s currently Georgie, after Georgia O’Keefe.)
I guess where I’m going with this is, we are surrounded by family, yet it’s often easy to take them for granted. Being close to others invites both the truest joy and the deepest sadness; the good and the bad are two sides of the same coin. Some members of our family we love and some we loathe; some came into our lives by nature and others by choice. I’m fortunate that my life did not change too drastically with the onset of the pandemic; my inner circle shrunk and I have gone too long without seeing my extended family, but I haven’t been alone.
Yet, the separation has helped me realize just how important family is and how grateful I am to have spent my life surrounded in love and support of all kinds. I’m reminded of the importance of making time for the people that matter, especially those who may be lonely, and I recognize the importance of setting aside differences to appreciate those things–however few and far between–that we share.