This afternoon I will be attending the memorial service for my cousin Kathy. She was just a couple of years older than me. She fought cancer for several years before winning the fight via eternal life in heaven. She lived a full life while here on earth, judging from the obituary and her facebook page. We lost touch once we moved into adulthood but my memories from our childhood were of a valiant girl who didn't let anything-- including the handicap that had her in a wheelchair her entire life-- stop her.
My understanding of her disability is that she was born with a condition in her spine that the Doctors lacked the medical technology to fix at the time. (today it probably would have been diagnosed and perhaps even repaired in utero.) I am not sure at what age Kathy was put in a wheelchair but she was raised by a strong mother who did not allow the disability to give Kathy leeway in life. She had to do chores just like the rest of the kids, she was expected to do things for herself as much as was possible. As a result Kathy was a strong woman like her mother. She learned to drive a car with hand controls. She lived on her own, in her own apartment. She worked, she volunteered with church and youth projects. She lived life fully.
When I heard the news that she had passed this week, my first thought was of how she was now walking, running. dancing with Jesus!!! All things she could not do in her wheelchair. What a celebration that must have been.
Today we will gather to celebrate the life she lived here on earth and I think about all the faces I will see today. Cousins I have not seen in years and years. They all live right here in Whatcom County but because our lives are busy and go in different directions, I have not seen many of them in a very very long time. We used to have family reunions every summer. Large potluck gatherings in the park. Horseshoes and baseball games. Gunny sack races, water balloon fights, hide and seek among the trails of the park. The reunion would go all day, from just before lunch until dusk. As we grew older and our families got larger, with children leaving home and beginning their own families, as the patriarchs passed away, the gatherings got smaller until finally they stopped.
I am often surprised to learn that the person I am talking with is somehow related to me, though perhaps distantly. I learned that one of the young men in our small group is actually a cousin (3rd or 4th cousin) but still--- related!
After spending the time in Florida with my daughter and my grandchildren I am even more aware of the passing of time and how important it is to stay in touch. I am thankful for modern technology that will allow me to continue to cultivate the relationships that were re-kindled during this visit. My 13 year old grandson is definitely old enough to engage in conversation with via chat or skype and spending time with him these last 2 weeks makes it easier to initiate conversation. I know him better.
I made a ton of new special memories these last couple of weeks and today I will remember with fondness and perhaps a touch of bittersweet, the memories of my childhood and my cousins. May I never take these memories lightly. May I never take family for granted.