As our elders die off – in particular those with whom we share a genealogy – we are left increasingly alone, no longer held in heart or hands of those who have known us forever. And I dare to add, “and who loved us anyway.” My mother was the oldest of five children. Her baby brother Jim was the first to pass, then years later her other sister, Mary, then brother Jesse a little over six years ago. My mom died in 2003, between Mary and Jesse. I’m thinking there’s quite a gathering up in heaven today, with lot of laughter, hugs and tears as Faye joined the chorus. (As PKs they could sing...and Mary played the piano!)
It might seem a bit strange that Faye’s passing has hit me hard were you to know I saw very little of my extended family. I grew up on the east coast and, but for some number of years that Faye and her family lived in NJ and then MA for a while, everyone else lived west of the Mississippi (I can still spell it if I sing the song!). I did not meet my Uncle Jim until I was in my 30s; he had several children, two of whom I met once, one of whom I hear from on the phone from time to time. I knew of Mary and her family through photographs and likely had some meeting in my childhood but I could not name the time; I did see her several times as a young adult. Jesse visited us in NJ when I was a child – a big tall, thin man at 6’4” with a Kansas drawl that enamored him to me; he had a son who died of cancer far too young who I never even met. Faye has told me again and again of how I stayed with her family when I had the measles at age 5 (very badly) and how she held and loved me – and even her husband Ed cradled me (who was a jokester but not particularly demonstrative with us kids). My mother and Faye had a special connection and because of that, it was Faye and her family that I visited and knew the best.
It was Faye who taught me to knit. And I think of the family, it was Faye who taught me to cry, to share emotions. Of course at the time, the rest of the family felt she cried too easily and too often. The truth is, no one knows the path we walk – only we and God have insight to that. In mid-life Faye was divorced by her husband and had to find her way in life; until then she had always been a homemaker. She discovered selling real estate – having moved frequently with her family it was a natural fit. And she re-discovered her kinship with God. That was good indeed, because several years ago she had to live through the death of her youngest daughter. Her faith and her church were strong sources of support.
None of this may matter to you – and that’s okay. It matters to me, and I was feeling the need to honor her, to remember her, to tell you about someone I loved.