Our family is mourning. We got news on Sunday night that one of our cousins died suddenly. She was only thirty nine years old. We have always been a close family. In our childhood years we spent a lot of time together. My father came from a large family. All of his brothers and sisters lived within blocks of each other. Many of them had large families of their own. The amount of first cousins I had was too many to count. Growing up we spent many weekends together at a cabin in the country. We would fish, play softball, horseshoes, and take hikes in the woods. After all of the activities we would gather around the picnic tables and enjoy a feast. Each family was known for specific dishes. My uncle (my cousin who died father) was famous for his Manhattan clam chowder. A huge soup pot would simmer on an open fire all day long and when he yelled “Soup’s ready,” we would run to stand in line with our little Styrofoam cups and plastic spoons. It was the highlight of the day. No one made clam chowder like Uncle Sam. As we grew older the Sunday afternoons at the country lessened, partly because we loss a five year old cousin tragically,(A tragedy I remember very little about). I was told it made it harder to participate in the outings with one less. In my twenties we managed to get back together on occasion. It felt like old times, our faces were older but we still looked forward to the same things, fishing, hiking, eating, and most of all each other. Those moments came to an end as the family grew. The cousins married and had children of their own and we lost touch even though most of us still lived within walking distance. Life took over and our close knit family grew further and further apart. I would see my cousins at other family functions- weddings, Christmas parties and sad to say funerals. This is not the funeral I thought I would be attending. The funeral of a thirty nine year old kind hearted cousin. Sharon was the middle child of my father’s oldest brother. She had a younger and older brother. She was godmother to her youngest brother’s two children and was going to be the godmother of his third. She loved Penn State football and hockey games. Her intelligence was incredible. She was the family’s accountant and helped all of us out during tax season. As I explained before, our family is huge so you could imagine how busy that time of year was for her. But she did it all. Anytime one of us would have those girly type parties whether it was jewelry, home interiors, Tupperware or a cooking show, she was a guaranteed guest.
When her father grew old and started to lose his reality she moved in with her mother to help tend to his needs. Her death made me realize that family is family. You could separate for days, months even years. You could have friends that know more about you than any of your cousins could ever imagine knowing. But in the end, at times like these it is your family that gathers around and lifts you up. Cries with you, remembers for you, and circles around like soldiers entering a battle. Each soldier holds a different title but every responsibility serves a purpose. Sunday night we gathered, we cried, we sat in silence when words were pointless. We wished this was a cross we didn’t have to bear. In the earlier days we stood in line for the clam chowder. Now we stand in line waiting for the moment the cross is too heavy to hold and we offer our assistance. United is the family who loses one of their own.