My aunt Carolyn is near death.
Her body is riddled with cancer and it came upon her quickly. Her children and grandchildren are gathering as are siblings and other beloveds.
This hurts. She is my mom’s older sister. Tall and strong and talented and gracious and fierce and like no other, she is. Private, oh so private about her thoughts and being. And within that being, the glimpses I got of the woman are part of the who I am.
We would spend weeks with her and her tribe of five children. I almost wondered if she and my mom conspired around childbirthing, because with the exception of one child in the middle not represented in my family, the two sisters had four other children born in pairs. It made for raucous gatherings. A cousin our own age for each of us. There were summers at the cabin and weeks in Duluth spent at Carolyn’s and Thanksgiving feasts and loud poker games and not a one of my mom’s sibling laughs delicately. Most of their kids share the same propensity for full-bodied laughter. So the air when the family gathered was laced with conversation and laughter choruses and intrigue and warm.
We’ll gather soon to thank God for Carolyn’s life. I don’t much know how to say thank you. What I am thinking these days is what a powerful blessing family is: Memories and traditions and relationships and bumps and the ongoing threading together that is sacred learning ground. We learn from each other lessons that we can’t even speak.
The lesson I can speak has to do with french toast. Aunt Carolyn taught me that french toast is a great way to use stale bread and it goes a long way for small cost. That teaching I can speak. But the other things she has deposited in my heart? I can’t speak them. But I know them to be grace.
So I pray on this night: God’s blessings, travelling mercies, thank you, thank you, thank you.