Family is family and blood is thicker than water. Despite years of long-term differences with the UltraCatholic branch of my father’s family tree, we are together again, arm-in-arm, consoling each other as we grieve over the death of one of my father’s sisters — my aunt — who passed away on Monday after a very prolonged, painful illness. (Note, this is not the aunt for whom I care and about whom I write often. That aunt is actually my father’s sister-in-law, not a blood relative.)
My aunt had been in poor health for a very long time. I visited her on occasion, but did not have much quality time with her because often she would nod off or be unable to follow a conversation. Our lives and our worlds were very different. She cared for two severely developmentally disabled children all of her life (when I knew her), and that ongoing, strong and heartfelt care took every ounce of energy from her.
Her husband worked hard to provide for the family. He was very devoted to his wife and children. My aunt worked very hard, as well, though her work was unpaid, but was evident in how her children were enabled to live as happy a life as they could in their respective circumstances.
My aunt’s husband (my uncle) passed away in February of this year. At the time, my aunt was severely ill and we didn’t think she had much longer to live. But she proved once again how strong she was, and lived nine more months (to the day) after her husband passed.
This Friday, the family gathers. We attend the viewing, the funeral, and then all go over to my cousin’s house to visit. Regardless of differences in political beliefs, or how shunned and hypocritically I have been treated by a large branch of the family tree who were taught by their Catholic upbringing that I live in sin because I love and live with another man — we put that aside for a day. We listen, we talk, we share, and we retell childhood stories and share memories of our lives over decades of time. It is our bonds of family and shared times together that hold us close today.
I’m glad that my partner and I cleaned the house last weekend, as we have three unexpected out-of-town house guests who are here for the funeral — a brother and two cousins. My partner is just muttering; he doesn’t like to have people around, but on occasions when family calls, then dislikes and discomfort are put aside. Perché? — la famiglia. Lei non disputa con Natura di Madre, così Lei punteggia disputi con la famiglia.
Times like this remind me that blood is blood and family is family, and as my father taught me at a very young age: family comes first. My Dad will be watching, and I will honor him. I will honor his sister, as well as pay respects for the greater good of la famiglia.
May God care for my lovely aunt, reunite her with her devoted husband, and bring peace and comfort to all.
Life is short: show those you love that you love them, even if they measure their love for you differently from how you measure your love for them.