Whether the day begins with rain or sunshine, the emotion of joy, pain and laughter will resonate throughout the sea of family members as they gather one more time on a sad occasion. Listening to the eulogy, standing at the gravesite as the remains are committed back to the earth, and sharing a meal and a memory at the repast, some of the faces who are present and the person who has passed away are the different characters in this play.
As I prepared to attend my first cousin’s funeral over the weekend, I said to my husband and a few of my family members that funerals have now become the new family reunion. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but this is becoming all too common of an occurrence. Memories of when we were younger painted a different picture of family gatherings, regardless of whose house we visited, ate or slept at. We were all very close, and we knew who our blood family members were and where our family members by marriage fit in. Most of the family lived in a relatively short travel distance from each other, so our visits were more frequent back in the day.
Not having seen so many of my relatives in 40 years or more, the dynamic of reunions for many of us who have moved further away from our birthplace and family homesteads, are blurring the lines of our memories. We are losing traction of the grasp we once had on the tribal community that was filled with some crazy swashbuckling uncles, carefree cousins and aunts who made sure you ate until you were as full as a tick. Things didn’t seem so complicated way back when, but I wonder what our foreparents would say right now if they could speak beyond the grave about what is becoming of our modern family unit.
We grow up and move to locations that attract us or is to our liking, due to marriage or to seek new opportunities for growth. This relocation by so many only loosens the familial tapestry as the ties that bind us weakens. While we acknowledge that our family embodies many highs and lows, many trials and triumphs, many dysfunctions and normalcy’s, there is something almost surreal yet spiritually enlightening that I am experiencing right now. I look at what has become of us. A lot has changed and a lot remains the same. Behind many faces there is wisdom, while others still hide a myriad of emotions whether good, bad or indifferent. The eyes don’t lie, no matter what the mouth says.
Yet we try, starting all over again with a few in number and then adding on to that tribal total. We promise to do better by staying in touch and we must keep those promises. I and my first cousins have now become our parents’ generation and there are two generations that follow (in a few cases 3). With the advent of social media, I have been able to connect to two generations of relatives and many dear friends who are like family to me. But when I reflect on all of those loved ones who tragically left us, whose voices we will no longer hear, I think about how they may be looking down at us, gathering around the big screen with God, wondering what we’re going to do next to resolve this separation and alienation.
“Life” has happened and for the most part, we all have endured one challenging thing after another that made us examine our lives in a deeper and spiritual way…challenges that have either strengthened us or weakened us…challenges that we grew from or succumbed to…challenges that change us somehow. We continue the same reverberation at every funeral or memorial service, “We must do better as a family and get together, but not at the next funeral.” As easy as it sounds flowing from our lips, it is not an easy task to accomplish. What ends up happening is another funeral…another sad reunion. How will the generations that follow know their genealogy if we don’t tell them just as our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles told us? You won’t know where you’re going to if you don’t know where you’re coming from!
So here we are once again, at a family reunion because another family member has transitioned to another dimension. Everyone’s pain is felt differently and processed individually. Even members of the same family feel and express their genuine sorrow differently. Realistically, we know that everyone will not have that warm and fuzzy feeling for each other and that’s ok. All I can say is, we have to first be divinely connected in order to understand how to divinely reconnect. I don’t mean religiously, I mean spiritually as blood binds us. And as Forrest Gump says, “That’s all I have to say about that!”