About two weeks ago, which was two weeks after my grandfather’s death, I wrote a post called “Traditions” about the Hanukkah cards he sent out every year and how much I will miss them. While I grew up in a small, nuclear family, my extended family is quite large, with many intergenerational aunts, uncles and cousins. Since writing the post, I have heard from so many of them. I’ve gotten blog comments, a few emails and even a phone calls. One of my dad’s cousins who wrote reminded me of a time when he was stuck on I-95 with a broken-down car and my grandfather went to get him. I didn’t know that side of my grandfather – the gracious uncle who was available to help in a pinch. It was fun to think of him that way for a few minutes – remembering that my grandfather was a regular guy. But all of the response has reminded me of the privilege I had growing up with dozens of family members at my fingertips. The response has taught me once again what a gift it is to have the security of never being truly alone if I don’t want to be. These are all people I can call on if I need a place to stay or just a warm voice on the other end of the phone. I appreciate being part of a bigger whole. Sometimes my family gets into my face, or more likely, my business, and sometimes they are even to0 close for comfort – forget about living across the globe – technology puts anyone in front of me who wants to be there. And my family wants to be there – for every blessed soccer game or concert or birthday party. It can drive me insane sometimes. But most of the time, I wouldn’t change it for anything.
You know, I didn’t get to go to my grandfather’s funeral in Connecticut because I was in Japan. My brother went, though. He put it best later when he said he had the urge to thank my grandfather that day. He got to connect with family members from all over the northeast of the U.S. who came in to be with our dad and his brothers as they celebrated their father’s life. There were people there who he hadn’t seen in years who he was so happy to see. To my brother, it felt like my grandfather had given him the true gift of family that day. The meaning of a funeral is for the living to grieve. In this case, though we will miss my grandfather, he had 94 wonderful years on earth and his passing was not a tragedy, but rather a part of life. The funeral was really to celebrate his life, and celebrate they did, telling stories and remembering and enjoying each other. My brother loved it and I wished I was there. In the end it doesn’t matter that much because I am positive that it doesn’t matter how long it is between visits with my extended family. We’re family and we’re irrevocably connected. That’s what counts in the end.