This past week my family suffered a great loss with the death of my cousin Debbie. Her husband, children, mother and stepfather along with a host of family and friends mourned the death of a woman who brought wit and wisdom to this world. She was a helicopter parent in every sense of the word and her children are loving, insightful and strong because of it.
What makes this story more poignant for me are the relationships evidenced at her funeral. You see, this particular cousin is on my dad’s side of the family. Her father and mine were brothers, both of whom are also gone. Yet, it was my mother who spent time at her mother’s side upon hearing about Debbie’s death. My mother attended the funeral with me. Upon remembering that Debbie’s son’s birthday was the day following her funeral, it was my mother and stepfather who helped me put together a birthday dinner and small party for him. And they picked up the tab.
When I am confronted with the reality of acrimonious divorces and custody battles, I become ever-more grateful for the kindness and compassion of my mother and stepfather. Never was I discouraged from having relationships with my father or his family simply because my mother had custody. In fact, my dad sat at our Thanksgiving table many a year and dropped in for dinner on a regular basis throughout my adolescence.
What is clear to me is that my family was also my mother and stepfather’s family. No matter the legal relationships involved, the true bonds were honored despite divorce and remarriage and many years.
Debbie’s funeral was a tragedy for so many. But even during the moments of deepest sadness, I was able to appreciate family. The family that I came from. The family that I created. The family that put their children above all else.