Today is the day my cousin is being buried in Iowa. I was unable to make the visitation or the funeral, but I got in touch with my sister, who was at the visitation yesterday and is currently at the funeral. My mind flashes back to the cold February day in 1994 when I walked into the church for my mother's service. The pews were packed with people, which made me happy to know that so many people loved her. I remember the choir I was involved in sing Amazing Grace, which was a favorite song of my mother's, and I remember being at rehearsal earlier in the week. My then-boyfriend's mother was in charge of the choir, and she counseled the kids not to look at the family lest they begin crying too. I locked eyes with one of my closest friends during that song, and neither of us cried. She told me later that she had to keep her eyes on me because I was the only one not crying, and that gave her strength. I took it as a compliment.
It saddens me to not be there for my family. I lost touch with that side of the family not long after my mother's death due to my father and I having a falling-out, and every time I talked to someone, they would tell him where I was, so I ceased all contact. He died in 2006, so now I feel more comfortable reaching out to them again. I feel stupid for letting one person get in the way of my having a relationship with the rest of the family, but I also at the time considered it self-preservation because my father was certifiable and he knew how to shoot a gun.
I wish I could tell my aunt and uncle in person that the first year is the hardest. Too many times you think, "I really need to talk to _____," and then it dawns on you that they're no longer around or else you would have. Each time, it's a cold slap to the face. I was lucky enough to have a car briefly, and it was a blue Chevy Cavalier convertible. I remember a semi-warm day in May when I took the top off, and I looked up at the sky and thought, This is the first real spring day without my mother. The Year of Firsts, I call it, and it's a bitch. The first birthday you celebrate without your loved one. First day of fall. First of each holiday. I want to tell them to expect these things because I consider them to be universal, even though I honestly only have my perception of grief, and losing a mother as a daughter is different than losing a young daughter as a parent.
Lots of people have posted memorials at the funeral home's website, and there have been some really nice things said about my cousin - loved her family, great multi-tasker who cared for the family and the home without missing a beat, always smiling and a happy woman. We don't tell people often enough while they're alive what we love about them. So go do it. Right now.