It’s All Saint’s Day. Tomorrow is All Soul’s Day. These are the other two days in a trinity of celebration for the departed.
Growing up a Catholic and attending a Catholic school through my early grades, these days played a bigger role in my life than they do now, although with so many of my family now part of the departed, I feel their impact more.
Starting in the late 1980s and through the early 2000s, I watched most of those closest to be pass away – my mother dying at the end of 2001.
The last two hold outs in this were my uncles, Ted and Pete.
Ted was my mother’s brother. Pete married my mother’s sister, Alice (who died in late 1975).
I remember Ted pulling me aside at my mother’s funeral to say “We’re the last two,” meaning the last of the old Crooks Avenue household, where five brothers, two sisters lived clan-like with my grandparents in a large old Victorian era house.
When Ted passed away in 2010, I felt incredibly alone.
His home in
during the 1980s and 1990s was nearly a weekly
journey from wherever I happened to live. Even though he moved to Toms River shortly before his death, his home in North Carolina was as much mine as his, and I still can’t pass that
exit on the Parkway without thinking of him. Toms River
When Pete died in early 2012 I was devastated. This was partly due to the fact that I was the last one standing from that generation, and from the fact that I was feeling my own morality. I had just undergone extensive eye surgery, and began to hear the whisper of the grim reaper in my ear.
Fortunately, during the last few years, I discovered that I am not alone, and found that a whole new family had sprung up on me.
Until recently, I had assumed that I was an only child. My father left my mother shortly after I was born, and I have no living memory except one of his holding me as an infant.
Caught up with the idea of finding out what happened to him, I eventually encountered cousins on my father’s side, who in turn, helped me find half sisters I never knew I had, and a step-mom who I actually got to talk to briefly about my father before she passed away earlier this year.
On this day of the year, it is good for me to remember those I love and have loved, but need not dwell on the idea that I am alone.
We are never as alone as we believe we are. Even if those we loved most have passed on, they still with us, imbedded in our genes, living out an extended life through us as we will in our children later.
And as sad as family history can sometimes be – my family has very sad stories – it is also remarkably rich, part of a living legacy each of us carries to the grave and beyond.
I miss my mother, my uncles, my aunt, my grandparents, but I also feel them stirring inside of me with each breath I take, and it is a remarkable feeling, a feeling of intense joy.