We woke early Saturday morning, too early. We dressed in black suits, all four of us. There were ties to tie and even cufflinks to insert into pretty little French cuffs.
We drove to the airport. The kids began to argue. Tears came to my eyes as we passed over the Richmond Bridge.
“Can’t you two just not bicker for one day?” I pleaded.
They tried. But they were tired and apprehensive. They had never been to a funeral.
We flew down to sunny Los Angeles and were greeted by rain showers. It never rains in LA. But it was raining on Saturday. We made our way to Forest Lawn Cemetery. We gathered under a tent, my cousins and a few dear friends.
My Aunt had been cremated so her ashes were placed in a small wooden box. Flowers adorned the table.
We were told to remember my Aunt. I did. Tears welled in my eyes once again. I looked over at my young son. He had tears in his eyes as well.
It struck me that although my Mother is still alive; my boys never really got to know her. Kyle was only a year when we were actually told she had Alzheimer’s. And I do remember Mom coming to the hospital when Will was born. Her caretaker drove her into San Francisco just hours after Will was born. It is my last full memory of my mother. She was delighted to meet her newest Grandson.
But my Aunt quickly tried to take my Mom’s place in my children’s eyes. She was the matriarch of my side of the family. And they loved her.
Her own Grandchildren generously shared her with them.
The three cousins came together as a family once again, at a place we used to visit every Easter. My sister died 16-years-ago. I desperately felt her absence. Our other cousin lives in England. The journey was too long to make. But her beautiful flowers and note sat right next to Auntie. She was with us in spirit.
Every Easter my Mom and Aunt would drag us to Forest Lawn and we would bring flowers and place them on the graves of their parents, Mutti and Vati. These were my Grandparents. The Grandparents I never had a chance to meet.
It felt significant sitting under the tent and honoring my Aunt. I could finally mourn.
When the service concluded, the cousins and the cousin’s kids went to visit the rest of the family buried at Forest Lawn.
We walked over rows and rows of buried souls and finally found my Father. My Sister lies next to him. My heart aches. I am so glad I am with my family and all my cousins.
Next we paid our respects to the grandparents we never knew. My Aunt and my Mom always made them so alive for us. My cousin snapped a photo. I understand his desire for the photograph. That’s where our rich history began, with them. I know he wants to remember them, although he never knew them. I know he wants the connection to them and to the rest of his family. He wants to feel them today and he wants to send the photo to our other cousin in England. He wants the family that was so strong to continue through the generations. I understand this. I love him for this.
The rest of the day passed with food, conversation and little too much wine.
The four of us left late Saturday night for a small hotel room in Pasadena. I didn’t sleep much. I shared a double bed with my husband and Kyle slept in the other double bed. Will was relegated to the cot that flanked our beds.
We woke early again Sunday morning to return home. I was happy, truly happy. I looked around the small room and I understood why. I was with my family and nothing makes me happier.
We landed in Oakland and Kyle shoved Will at the airport gate, “Move faster,” he said. Will turned to Kyle, “Stop acting like such a butt.”
My husband turned to me. “They could barely last a day, and now they need to get it all out!”
He was right. I was home and home felt normal again.