One of the refrains at my nephew’s funeral was, “We should see each other more often. A stark statement amid the empty calendars of the past two years. Days, weeks and months have been crossed off due to COVID-19 pandemic closures and restrictions. It was an ordeal, especially for families who naturally came together to recognize the stages of life, the important moments, those from birth to death and all those special experiences in between, as a meaningful part of life. .
Although we have done our best to comply, nothing will replace the lost years we have given as families who would otherwise have come together to hold and hug each other in times of joy or sadness. Weddings have been canceled, postponed indefinitely, or held under less than ideal circumstances.
In this reality, I attended my nephew’s celebration of life last week, chatting with a dear aunt who agreed that the last two years are a part of family time that is sadly missing. We promised it wouldn’t happen again. Time is over and he expects nothing and no one.
This is the lesson the past two and a half years have taught us as family members. Many of us sacrificed to welcome new family members and to hold the hand of those who were sick or dying in hospitals or nursing homes. Families were unable to fully gather at funerals to mourn their loved ones, in-person worship ceased, and parents had to find work while their children stayed home to learn.
The family couldn’t naturally celebrate, grieve, learn and grow together during this time. We hugged by the picnic tables, mourning the loss of our loved one, as well as a void in family time that we knew we couldn’t get back.
The family rituals we once took for granted, celebrating a birth, attending a wedding, holding close to a dying relative, paying homage, praying together, learning together, moments that give meaning to life, were absent. I thought “never again” as I watched the younger members of the family meet for the first time, run and tumble across the grass and laugh together.
My niece and her family decided to make the effort and turn around and come back in a month for the wedding ceremony and the upcoming celebration of our daughter and son in law to mark their June nuptials. Loss and separation have made it clear to us the importance of coming together, now more than ever.
My husband Steve and I knew this as parents of four children, and we made sure that we did our best to honor this universal truth, even when it was inconvenient or costly, because we knew that being present is the kind of act as a member of the family which is tenfold. These shared experiences are each a step on the way to the house of relationships, and they are there so that we can always find the path of peace and comfort in difficult times. Shared family memories, whether painful or jubilant, help to forge a loving sense of belonging, a basic need for us as humans.
I look forward to reuniting with our children and grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins, this time for a wedding here at home.
Watching the youngest of cousins interact with each other was a sign that our family was back on track. We laughed and cried. We played and chatted. We entertained each other with our stories, our songs, our athleticism and our grace, we shared our trials and tribulations. We cooked and ate together. These are the beautiful beginnings of unbreakable links.
I want our children to live not just to survive, but also to thrive. Meaningful family ties foster respect, trust, and love and can help us get through the hardships and accept the gifts that this wonderful, miserable life and especially everything in between will give us. Get together, keep family relationships strong, now is the time.