Sunday, May 25, 2014

Thought for The Day - A Great Cloud/Crowd

I’m writing from the 14th floor of the Marriott in Kansas City, Missouri, a city I haven’t visited since the early 90’s at best. My son and I made the drive for the funeral of one my aunt’s, one of my mom’s many sisters. I’m also here because of her son, a dear cousin, who now lives in Dallas. I’m sitting here shaking my head at the thought of so many cousins from childhood; we are now the parents we saw our parents being, and in many cases, the grandparents.

My son and I made it to the small church where the service took place, early enough to get a seat. At first it seemed like it wasn’t necessary to be there 15 minutes before the viewing; the church wasn’t a quarter full and yet, I hardly noticed, for seeing the living. Cousins I haven’t seen in 30 and 40 years to greet. Some with grandchildren of their own; and they were only a few years older than I. 

By 10:15, more people came in and as more familiar faces and voices came in, I stood from the back pew, turning to greet them. At some point, I told my son I may as well stay like this. He asked why and I explained there were a lot more folks coming and a lot more ‘hello’s’ and hugs were due. Didn’t come close to imagining the number. If the church sat 300, the family members that attended the funeral were easily two-thirds of the number. They easily filled the “family side,” the first row reserved family quickly becoming the entire side. As the funeral service began, and more relatives appeared, they filled the front of the other side. And more and more people came, having to take seats in the choir stand. And yet, folding chars were used on either side of the two rows.

My Aunt Dorothy was strong and tough. It occurred to me more than a few times during that service that she had to be, to be the mother of my cousin John. He was a tough and energetic boy. But he LOVED family, though for years, he was an only child. It was okay because in KC, he had enough cousins and aunts and uncles to make him feel like he was part of a large tribe. His strong will and energy was always a force to be reckoned with, but so was his mom’s. She would give him a look and say “lil John,” with such a force, the rest of us would calm down for a bit. Over the years, she put him in sports as a way to give him structured outlets for his energy and a sense of camaraderie. And the man he’s grown into is AMAZING. Strong face, big smile (like the “lil John” I remember from so many years ago!) and a loving personality; he’s always fighting for family. Though he lived far away from his mom, for all practical purposes, he may as well had a house in the next block, the way he cared for her. 

His sister, my cousin Marisa has grown into a beautiful woman as well. I remember when she was a little girl, she barely said more than a few words, at least when she was around me. She has two handsome boys, also athletes. I figure that’s not only their grandmother’s influence, but their uncle John as well. 

The amazing thing, the thing that still has me shaking my head is the number of cousins I remember and didn’t make it to the funeral. I’m only referring those who stay in the area. And I can only imagine what the place would be like if my relatives from Chicago, including my parents and my children and wife, had been there. I’m certain if all my relatives had been there, the church could not have space for “non-family members!” But one thing that seemed quite clear about Aunt Dorothy, though I remember her as a stern and quiet woman, EVERYONE else knows her as a sweet motherly type. 

I guess the traits runs strong through my family. A sense of family extends from all of us. The many occasions and events I’ve attended over the years, an invitation was always extended to non-family and you would be surprised how many in-laws and friends showed. A Great Crowd, a Great Cloud of witnesses, of participants, of folks touched, touching and extending the FAMILY; that’s what I take away from being in this small town. I will probably search faces with greater scrutiny now, having seen so many faces with that “Lee" jawline and those “soulful” eyes like mine. I think my family is so huge that we could fill this small town. I'm certain, when I reach heaven, the FAMILY will be there to meet me.