Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Today, I traveled about two hours to Minnesota, to attend the funeral of my cousins' father, Roger. He passed away early Monday morning, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 52 years, 9 months, and 2 days "young" when he passed.

Roger was married to my aunt Kat for quite a few years. After they split, I will admit, I did not feel close to him. In fact, we were very distant for most of my life.

But, that does not mean that somewhere, deep inside, there wasn't a place for him in my heart. In fact, there's a place in my heart for anyone I have ever loved. That doesn't mean that my childhood wasn't filled with memories that included him. One of my favorite family vacations, actually, was taken in his bus (which was turned into a camper) with my four cousins, Roger, my parents, my three (at the time) siblings and I, to the Black Hills.

I remember vividly such things as climbing sand dunes, and playing cards in the bus as we trekked along. I remember feeling like we weren't going to make it up the big hill to Mount Rushmore. We took lots of photos that vacation on my old 110 Kodak camera. Actually, my dad took most of them, and the majority of them starred his pointer finger! Haha.

Today was very emotional, despite the lack of closeness I felt for Roger at the time of his passing. I think it was so emotional, just because I knew without his existence, my cousins wouldn't exist. I wouldn't have one of my very best friends in my life, if it weren't for him and his relationship with my aunt at one time.

The funeral was wonderful, though too long for Spencer so I spent most of it watching from the foyer of the church.

The burial was the most emotional part for me. I think, simply, because I stood there, across from my four cousins, their significant others, and their children, and watched them cry. It was incredibly difficult to fight back tears (and I lost) as I watched my cousins Christopher and Bradley, especially, cry. Watching men cry always gets me crying too, in chain reaction form. Watching Kat & Roger's grandchildren as they tried to understand what was going on, or as they did understand, depending on the age, broke my heart, as I imagined me and my cousins (including the four of Kat and Roger's children) as little children at the time my cousin Carissa (who was two when she went missing and was found in the river at my aunt and uncle's farm) was being buried.

Watching my father pat Roger's casket as he said his goodbye to his long-time friend also broke my heart further.

Saying "goodbye" to him myself... was almost surreal.

And realizing for a moment at my arrival at church, but really grasping the thought as I drove back home this evening that my father is only a few months older than Roger. I am a few months older than Christopher, and I was suddenly putting myself in his shoes.

I cannot imagine losing my father at this point in my life. I have friends who have lost parents, and I have lost other family members, but there was something about experiencing the funeral today that really drove home the fact that my father (and mother, and family and friends) are mortal, and we are all here for a very short time in the grand scheme of things.

Needless to say, the thought of losing my father like my cousins lost theirs overwhelmed me to the point of sobs as I drove down a lonely Minnesota highway.

My prayers are still being sent to my cousins, and the rest of Roger's family and friends as they learn to cope with the new normal where they know they'll never be in his physical presence on this earth again.

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