I’m writing this from my mother’s condo in Boulder City, Nevada; a small, charming, historic town just outside of Las Vegas. My family (two uncles from Chicago and an uncle and aunt-in-law from Washington, my mother and myself) came together this week to bury my Aunt Linnea who unexpectedly passed away last week.
My aunt was 58 years old, profoundly disabled from Down Syndrome and was loved and cared for more deeply than any of us could have hoped. Yes, we, her family certainly loved her. It’s been said over and over for the last couple of weeks that Linnea was the heart of our family. That’s true. I haven’t seen Linnea since I moved back to the Midwest 11 years ago, but she helped make me who I am today. Thanks to my job, she will live on through me every time I share her story with others. She was also loved, deeply, by the staff that took care of her in her group home and at her day service facility. She was loved by her friends whom she spent time with so much that many came out to her funeral. There certainly is an emptiness in the world, because she’s gone.
Linnea’s funeral (and the three days that have followed) marked the first time all of my uncles, my mother, and myself have been together in the same place since my grandfather’s funeral 21 years ago. It’s not like there’s been some family feud, we all just have a million time-wasting reasons for not gathering as a family. We’ve all seen each other in some combination, but not altogether at once. We all made a pact to change that; to stay in touch, to gather more often. It’s important.
One of my uncles handed me a thumb drive of our family archives tonight. He painstakingly scanned photos and documents decades-old, so that each person in the family knows our history. He’s been working on that for at least a couple of years. I can’t wait to see it all. I shared with him how much I appreciate this, because I don’t really have a lot of knowledge about Marathon Man’s heritage to share with our boys. I think, this year for Christmas (and each year after), I’m going to ask his family to write down a family story and share photos, if possible, so I can start compiling a Dull history book for our boys. They need to know the cool people in their family. They need to know where they came from and how invested their ancestors were in our country. It’s important.
Reconnecting, staying connected, tracking down family history will all take a lot of work and a lot of commitment. But, I realized how much time has been lost and how little may be left. Life is fragile. There’s no better time to change things than the present.
Live. Laugh. Love.