Are there any warmer words than those? I think not.
This afternoon I had the privilege of attending a funeral service for my Aunt Glenda. In truth she's my hunky husband's aunt, not mine. When you've been married as long as we have though, the term (and the concept of) "in-law" is blurred to say the least, and actually mostly absent. Glenda was my aunt for thirty four years. When we were a newly married couple, Glenda and Gleason (Gleeshun, as pronounced by family) were younger than I am now. They were handsome people. They had two gorgeous girls around the same age as hunky hubby and before long we discovered, as we have all our married life, a connection between his family and mine. Glenda and Gleason's girls were school friends of my own first cousins. Glenda would say, "Oh Low-urd, those boys were at my house all'a time. I doan even know how minny times I fed those young-uns."
Today when I walked into the funeral home parlor an uncle pointed and exclaimed, "Hey. You're a Culpepper!" It made me smile and it quickened my step and my heart until I was under Uncle James' arm wing, my head resting on his chest. Uncle James is Gleason's brother. He is also my late father-in-law's brother. When I'm near James I feel like my father-in-law is close-by. They are so very similar in word and appearance, and at times like these I could just kick myself for not making visiting him a regular part of my life. I tell myself I'll do better.
Throughout the decades of family gatherings I always loved talking with Glenda because she was, like myself, an outsider - an in-law. She looked at me with understanding eyes and a knowing glance. She asked me questions and talked to me about things that made me comfortable. Looking back, I'm not quite sure how she knew to do that.
We saw them infrequently, and as the years passed the family get togethers became less and less frequent. Even so when we did gather I could always count on looking around and finding her there with a wide smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye that said "Come over here, baby. Come talk to me."
I hope, as I recognize the relationship between our ages, Glenda and me, and the current perspective of individuals in our family as it appears when we gather, that I can can take her sweet thoughts and words and use them to make our young generation more comfortable. . . . just like she did for me.
In the end, it is a privilege to attend a funeral service. To be one of the chosen ones to send someone off to Heaven with shared prayers? It's a gift. I'm thankful for that gift today.