In the week leading up to the Independence Day (U.S.) holiday, my father’s side of the family gathered for its annual reunion. This was a big year, with practically everyone there—my father and his siblings, and their assorted children and grandchildren. There were only two people out of 33 that did not plan to be there. Even my father’s mother, a 97-year-old widow with very limited mobility and physical reserves, made the trek to upstate New York to be a part of the festivities.
In the week before the reunion, one of my father’s sisters-in-law—aunt to me and my cousins—fell and cut her leg. Complications, including a pulmonary clot, put her in the hospital for a few days. So it looked as though aunt Audrey and her husband Tren, my father’s brother, would miss the reunion.
In the end, Tren did come to the reunion after all, but not as any of us would have wished: Audrey died the morning of the second day of the reunion.
On the first day of July, with almost the entire family present, from my grandmother down to her many great-grandchildren, we held a memorial service for Audrey. We were able, thanks to some fantastic coincidences, to secure some wonderful musicians to play a small selection of tunes. The service was held with the family in a circle, sitting in a room facing a cliff that dropped into a glacial lake. The sun was bright in a cloud-dotted sky as various family members shared their thoughts and memories of Audrey.
With my attention on Carolyn and some of the other little ones, I did not manage to speak up, but there is little I could have said besides this small thing, to Tren and Audrey’s son, Don: It is a terrible thing to lose a mother, but a truly wonderful thing to have had, for however brief a time all those years may seem, a mother as loving as she.
Yesterday, we gathered again in Tren and Audrey’s home town of Cincinnati to wish her farewell along with the congregation of her church. Afterward, I gave Tren a card which I hope gave him some comfort. It read:
When you look up tonight, don’t think of them as stars. Think of them as porch lights welcoming your loved one home.