I received a call on Tuesday last week from my cousin, who is more like my sister for sure, Dee that her mom had passed away. Aunt Jan has been sick for some time, first with COPD and then with lung cancer. They only gave her a short time when she was diagnosed last year – but that lady was feisty, in all ways, and showed them by handing around another year. I hadn’t seen her in a few years, but the last time I had the opportunity to spend time with her, she still had it. She could make me laugh till it hurt. She was just JAN — always to her fullest. And boy, I loved her.
I decided pretty quick in the midst of everything we have going on I would make a whirlwind trip back home. Family is family, and it’s where I needed to be. I’m so glad Frank is who he is. He didn’t even blink when I told him I wanted to go. So, Thursday, I boarded a plan and landed in Chicago, raced to Bourbannais (1:30 hr drive), changed and headed to the funeral home. My cousin was literally walking out for some air when I arrived. We hugged tight and I was so glad to be there with her in that moment.
The wake was a long night. Maybe I was just tired…There were highlights for sure. The family had laid out poster boards of pictures throughout aunt Jan’s life and of the people most important to her. It was really lovely to look through them. It was of course good to see all the kids, now grown up, and their respective spouses. But the highlight — seeing my cousins.
My cousin Dave, Jeff and I are the babies of the bunch — we were born a little later in our parent’s lives and so we’re the youngin’s. Jeff is out of state and didn’t make it in, but David was there and we got to catch up. I have to say, I really enjoyed that time with him. His wife and kids are just wonderful. I’m so happy to see him so happy and settled with life.
Then the girls came with Aunt Corky. The girl cousins Kim and Cindy. Kim, I know better than Cindy, Kim is the youngest of that bunch (they have 2 other sisters, one who has passed on and Jacquelyn who wasn’t there). I’ve never really had a chance to get to know Cindy. And not that we had a ton of time to chat one-on-one, but I found myself really drawn to her. We chatted and I just felt so comfortable. I think when I was younger everyone seemed so much older — and now that we’re older, age doesn’t matter that much. Kim kept us in stitches – just how Aunt Jan would’ve wanted it. Seriously — what side of the family was I with? The irreverent side! 🙂 We had a few good laughs the later the night went.
Later my cousin Sandy and her husband Darby, and her brother, also my cousin, Jim and his new wife came. it was good to chat with them and reconnect. I also learned that my cousin Jeff (my age) lives in Charleston, SC and his brother Jon lives near where we are moving, and does Jon’s daughter, Crystal. Looks like I have family after all in SC. Crazy. Best part — Jeff is an AVID motorcycle rider. He raced motorcycles for years, until he crashed enough and had enough metal put in his body that those days are now behind him. But he has a Harley Street Glide, and once I upgrade, we will have to explore the Carolina’s together.
The funeral was beautiful. My cousin, Dee, shared the most touching eulogy of her mom. I couldn’t help but cry. And I don’t cry easily at funerals. I tend to bat down the hatches and keep calm to help everyone else around me. But it was a tender moment, that’s making me tear up now.
After we went to lunch where I spent more time with the girls. Aunt Corky told me many stories of the old days while we were together — and I loved it. I love our family history. I truly do. I mentioned that I have our genealogy from that side of the family, and the girls got really excited. I guess it never occurred to me that that would be a treasure for others around me. I think once we’re settled I will pull it out and start loading it again so that I can create a book and provide it to everyone. It will be a great thing to share.
After lunch we went back to the house and chatted for a while, then came time to go. It’s a long drive back to O’hare from Bourbannais on a Friday afternoon before Labor Day. 3 hours total between the house and the gate. But I made it. And once I had grabbed a little grub, I sat down and called my cousin Jeff, well, texted. And not 5 minutes later, he called me. Which was amazing. So good to reconnect. We agreed we’ll have to ride together, talked about our Dad’s — we’re both a lot like both of them. So good to hear his voice.
I feel so blessed to have rekindled some old relationships and formed some new ones. Maybe next summer, I will create a family reunion at our new place. Maybe I can get all the cousins to come. That would be fun. My dad started the tradition in 1976 — time to bring it back about…I can’t wait.