They say when you get married that you marry the family. Sometimes it comes across as a negative thing. Hopefully more often, it comes across as a positive thing.
When you marry into a family it expands your horizons. You learn more about other people and then in time, learn to love them as if they were your own family from birth.
I came from a relatively (pun intended) small family. My parents both only had one sibling. Neither my aunt nor uncle had children, so I never had a cousin. Our Thanksgivings included our family of five and a set of grandparents. That was usually it.
When I married into the Chairman's family, I married into a large one. Extended aunts/uncles/cousins. And a lot of them. Through the near-20 years I've been a part of this family, there have been some losses.
We lost a colorful uncle named "Bruno". He is hard to describe actually. He had a twinkle in his eye. He was never at a lack for words. He'd shoot from the hip and tell you exactly what he thought of you, your food, your house, you name it. And he had a heart bigger than inside his chest. He bestowed upon us our grave spots when our baby died. He knew how to step in and help when needed.
Then we tragically lost our near 16-year old niece. Taken too soon in the prime of her life. But it was His will. A month later, the Chairman lost his only sibling after a terrific fight with cancer. Sadness surrounded us, but the sun eventually came out again.
Now another cousin is near the end. Alonia is her name. She has fought melanoma for too many years. Nearly 17 years ago they gave her just six months left to live. She kept on through diligent treatments that took her to far away places. But the cancer spread and now is taking over.
I really didn't know Alonia much before our wedding day. I remember feeling near-faint as I stood to vow that I'd be Mrs. Chairman. What kept me from completely collapsing in my nervousness was the continual sniffling sounds coming from the crowd. Alonia was crying throughout the ceremony. I like to think they were tears of joy and not distress. And the memory makes me smile.
After our baby died, she cried with us. Once when she was looking at pictures of baby Amara, she told me plainly, 'please don't give up. You want children.' These words had weight since she herself, was childless.
She was a giver. She'd often bring little gifts for the MYP. She'd take the time to talk to them on their level. She would call me every so many months just to visit. Her conversation would always turn to me and she wanted to know more about how my life was than telling me about her own even though she and her husband liked to travel the globe to glamorous places while my life was consumed with home and hearth and family. Just this past fall, she brought a beautiful gift box of spices with a card enclosed that simply had the word 'kind' on it. That describes her.
Last year we hosted the annual Thanksgiving dinner with all the extended family. Alonia felt she wasn't well enough to come. She called several times wishing she could be with us and was crying on the phone as she thought it might be too much. I urged her to come. It wouldn't be the same without her. And she did! We were thrilled to see her and her husband walk in. They were precious moments together.
And now she's fading away. We will miss her deeply. For her countenance, grace, and beauty that is beyond the surface. She taught me a lot in the last 20 years. She wasn't afraid to show her emotions and empathy. For this, we are thankful for her. And for a larger family.