My oldest aunt passed away last Thursday. I am saddened by her death, for it seems that with each aunt and uncle and parent who has died our connection to our larger family is lessening, fading. I don't really know my cousins - their lives are in Switzerland and mine is here. Oh, I know a couple of them fairly well, but they are so far away. Except for my annual Christmas letter, a stray and sporadic e-mail, I don't hear from them. They are busy living their lives and I am busy living mine, except for those moments, those times when I yearn for a closer relationship, to be more a part of their lives and they a part of mine.
I've noticed that it gets increasingly harder and more awkward to return to the homeland of my parents, to my second home. The ones I grew up with (well, saw every 5 years), the relatives I got to know, love and appreciate, the ones that warm my heart and soul with memories - are all gone now. Grandparents, all my uncles, my aunt, great uncles and aunts - except for the youngest have joined the Church triumphant. I miss them greatly at times. They were full of life, fun, work and toil, they were honest, salt of the earth folks, genuine and quirky.
I think I was amazed to learn when I was 6 that I had a huge family across the pond and over the alps. I miss the way it was when my parents and my cousins' parents were together. How they just connected, brothers and sisters, who remembered growing up together, hardships, school pranks, and as I reflect on that, how warm and connected I felt. Now they are all but gone, one aunt with Alzheimer's remains, and I miss that connection, the ties that were our parents that bound us together and now are memories we keep close in our hearts and store in our minds. It's just not the same any more. I miss them all so very much, even as I give thanks to God for the gift they were and the grace to have known them, if only in brief segments of my earlier years.
My aunt was the spittin' image of my paternal Grandma. Even her voice sounded like grandma's. They could have been twins and not just mother and daughter. With my aunt, I had a direct link to my Grandma who passed away when I was in 7th grade. I have her dark brown eyes, they always told me. I shrugged it off! Who wants to look like their grandparent? But, with the passing of the years, as I gaze at her picture, trying to discern just who she was and how we might have gotten along, I see her beautiful, kind, wise, strong, dark eyes, with just a hint of twinkle and that reflect a deep and abiding faith, I am thankful, grateful that my eyes are just like hers.
I last saw my aunt 3 years ago. LH and I drove to the Nursing home and she was still in good shape for 89. We had a most delightful chat in her room at the table and she even walked with her walker down the hallway. She shared a few things about her life that I never knew and most of the cousins don't know either. She gave me strength when I did my Dad's committal, her faith tapped into mine into all the faithful, that great communion of saints. She mentioned that getting married late in life to one 23 years older than she, was the most wonderful gift of her life. The 7 years they enjoyed together as husband and wife were the best years of her life. And her face shone with love and delight at the mere mention of that fact.
We will see one another again some day, Tante Dorli and I. It will be a wonderful reunion with all the relatives I knew and loved the best, whose faces, smiles, eyes, quirks, voices have left their imprint on my mind, soul and heart and with whom I will always be connected though the cable becomes a tiny thread.