Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Common Thread

I grew up in Ohio and have since lived many other places but never near my extended family.  We would take road trips to see them or they would come to visit us and each time I saw them, I left with a sense of connection.  My grandmother was a huge presence in my mom's side of the family.  She was bold, outspoken, irreverent and yet endearing.  She read palms and acted in community theater.  She was always surrounded by an adoring crowd but couldn't clean her house to save her life.  I never once saw her without a cup of coffee and a cigarette between her fire engine red fingernails.  I loved her but I never truly knew her.  She was like a living legend; stories about her seem to live forever.  She died a few years ago and when I visited Kansas City, I realized that she is still living in her daughters and in me.

My Aunt Amy picked me up at the airport and shared the story of her friend.  I hadn't known about this tragedy - I was shocked and my heart ached for her.  She told me she had asked the family if she could speak at the funeral and they had said yes.  As I listened, I watched her face go from grief to a steadfast determination to keep it together.  My Aunt Amy is the fun one, the crazy one, the bold one. This was the first time I had ever seen her begin to show big emotion.  I told her I would be there.  I would be there for her before, during and after the funeral for anything she needed.  

The day of the funeral came and we all met at the funeral home.  When my aunt was asked to come up, she raised her chin and walked with confidence to the lectern.  Her daughter followed so that she could support her mom.  She began the speech dramatically.  "Sharon loved.  Sharon loved her family.  Sharon loved her husband.  Sharon loved life," she said.  I felt everyone in the room stop.  "And I'm pissed that she's gone."  It was so real, so raw, so breathtakingly honest.  I was riveted in my seat as I listened to stories of this woman I had never met but suddenly loved and missed.  I felt my aunt's love for her with every word she spoke.  I felt the passion and power of her voice.  And I felt my Granny there, with us, shining the light on my aunt.

That night we all went to a friend's house, cranked the music and drank a bit too much.  The song, "We are family" came on and my aunties, my mom and I danced and sang our hearts out.  We are family.  And family is a funny thing.  Even without spending your daily rounds with them, you share a common thread.  You share an understanding of who you are and what has made you who you are.  Even through tragedy, you can triumph when you join together and realize that you don't have to do it alone.  You have each other and you have the strength of those that raised you, influenced you and sometimes have left you too soon.  I'm so grateful for the strengths of the great women in my life.  

How would you describe the personality of your family? What traits make you who you are?  How can you pass that along to your children? 

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