Last night I attended a memorial service for a cousin I really never knew. He was the older brother of my cousins with whom I grew up. This older cousin of mine--he was legendary. He was a real renegade. I had always heard of my cousin--there were stories by the hundreds! But I never knew him.
After last night's memorial service, I wish I had. Sure, he engaged in some unhealthy behaviors. Ultimately, it was alcoholism that killed him. But that wasn't all he was. From the number of people who attended his funeral, I would say that my cousin had quite a few friends. I never knew this. I didn't know that he was vegetarian (unusual for my family); I never knew that he was a staunch protester against the Vietnam War despite being extremely proud of his dad--a WWII vet.
I didn't know that even as a young child, in a hunting family, he refused to kill a deer. And was unashamed to say so.
Hearing his stories from the perspective of others made me wish I had known him. I think we would have, at some level, understood each other. I have always been told that I was the black sheep of the family, that I was odd. I never could understand why I was so damn different from the rest of the family. Why I was/am such a freak, so different from the rest of the world.
My cousin struggled with spirituality as do I. His sister said that he believed in God (I do too) but struggled with how God is depicted. I understand that.
My cousin was a musician, an artist, a gardener, a caregiver of others . . . . I didn't know him.
I realized last night that this is my family. We all look alike--us folk from my dad's side of the family. I love them. I cannot believe that I've let 30 years go without seeing most of them. I've always been closer to my mom's side of the family. But wow, on my dad's side, there is no denying. We all. look. alike.
If there is nothing else I follow through with this year, I will keep in touch with my cousins and my uncle. I can't miss out on losing another part of my family.