We laid my mother to rest last Friday. My entire family made the trip to Florida to be there for this private event. My sister, my brother, their spouses and children and me and my 3 children. 15 of us in total paid tribute to the woman who was the head of this family. It was heart wrenching and devastating and something only we survived. People were angry, hurt and confused as to why we decided to block out the rest of the world during this time of grief. To us it was simple, a no brainer. We are her legacy. We are a unit. It started with the 5 of us. My parents, sister, brother and me. During time we added spouses to our closed circle. Then our children. And now, my Godson's fiance and my nieces boyfriend were present as well. We are not stand offish people, we welcome the new into our family with open arms without the stigma of "in law". However, we didn't want outsiders with us during our time of grief. Because then it becomes about them, and not us. People's well meaning offers of sympathy need to be met with the appropriate appreciation. We just wanted to grieve. We are thankful for the outpouring of people who reached out to all of us, we are! But this, this was private and not one of us were sorry.
My parents moved away to Florida 30 years ago. For 30 years we have not all lived in the same state. 10 years ago I moved across the country as well. So these time for us all to be together are precious. The last time we were all together was in November of 2010. Of course we have seen each other since, but all of us together in one place is reserved for an occasion. This was such an occasion, to celebrate my mother's life and mourn her death. This was the first time all of us were in Florida together. It was amazing. Truly amazing. As I looked around at these people, my family, I was filled with love...and admiration....and gratitude. It would have been very easy for us to just drift apart from each other. To become polite strangers. The opposite has happened. I am closer to my brother and sister now than ever before. The usual arguments and distance and rifts you hear happen when a parent dies just didn't occur for us. We agreed on everything, we are so different yet cut from the same cloth at the core. Greed does not exist in my family. We all truly want what's best for the other. There are of course spats and disagreements, jeez we are not saints, but at the core there is a love, a loyalty and a bond that time nor distance can destroy. For this I am so grateful!
We have never mourned before like this. We didn't know the protocol. My mom was very ill and her death didn't come as a surprise. We were all prepared (well, as prepared as you can ever be). I was at their home when everyone arrived. We all had a different reaction to coming into the home they shared without my mother being in it. We all grieved our own way. But true to form of my family, we also laughed. And enjoyed being together as the gift that it is. During the memorial service, my nephew gave a speech. Not a eulogy, but a tribute to our family. It's about the legacy of our family. He praised my siblings and me and challenged HIS siblings and cousins to live up the legacy that was started by their grandparents. There was not a dry eye in the room. My sister (with the help of my niece) made a video montage showing the best of my mom's life. It was amazing. We laughed and cried together all reliving the moments that brought us to this point in time. Obviously the pictures of my mom during her illness were left out and forgotten--that's not how we want to remember her. Although, the strength and dignity she showed during this last year is a tribute to the woman she was. I sat in the first pew with my dad and my siblings and I turned around a few times to check on my kids. I saw my niece comforting my daughter, my son comforting his cousin, it was just to telling as to what our family is. There is no competition between them, there is love between those 7 grandchildren. Although they don't see each other as often as they'd like they adore each other and have a closeness that nothing can change. Seeing them together and being together with my siblings was the greatest possible offering to my mother's legacy. She created this family, with my dad. Their love made this and we will continue to make them proud!
It made me wonder what my legacy will be. Will my children continue the way my siblings and I have? I pray every day they will. The time is coming where I am sure we will not all be living in the same place and they will begin to bring in significant others to our circle. I pray they choose wisely and remain close to their siblings, while still respecting their significant other. I hope they see the love my parents had for each other and strive to duplicate that in their own way. I know that is my dream and hopefully my legacy.