Today I will go to the mountain top with half a dozen remnants of my family. My father and his sister, my mother’s brother and his daughter (my cousin), my mother’s sister, my brother and his life partner and me.
The mountain is home to a cemetery where generations of my family are buried.
We have been planning this day for several months. The day in which these remnants of a family will celebrate the life of my younger brother who died in April. This is the last picture taken of my brother (in the middle with me on one side and our youngest brother on the other).
My brother was not a person of faith. So crafting a memorial service to honor his life and embrace my family – some of whom are practicing Mormon, most of whom are either agnostic or people who have left the Mormon Church but not found another expression of faith – required much intentionality on my part. I hope the service is worshipful for us, I hope it honors my brother’s life well enough. I hope we (or rather, at least I, can get through it).
My family is complicated. Whose isn’t? I suspect however that my family is more complicated than most. Spending a week in Salt Lake with my aunt (my dad’s sister) has afforded me the opportunity to remember…She and I have talked for many hours over dinner and a glass of wine. We have talked about suicide in the family, how we have hurt one another, the illnesses of my mother and how her version of reality – a version that always demonized others in order to spare her any more pain, the remnants of childhood abuse were too great for her to ever accept any additional accountability for her actions – every thing was always the fault of someone else. And in response she consistently cut people out of her life. Me included. Oh my, the pain and hurt feelings. My aunt and I have talked through decades of this. I think she and I see it with clarity and understand better that much was done that never should have been. I think much was said and done that never reflected my true inner feelings.
Today at the cemetery where generations of my family are buried I will hold this hurt and hope that much of it can be let go of. We will celebrate my brother’s life, he who lived a very broken life “off the grid.” But he who loved life and always had a great sense of humor. That is one thing, my family knows how to laugh. We just forget that sometimes it’s better to laugh stuff off than sling the arrow. I think we are all getting better at that however. I think not having my mother in the middle helps.
My mother will be there, though, as we celebrate my brother’s life. Her ashes are interred on the mountain in the plot with her father. My brother will be in the next plot over, with our grandmother. These people, my grandparents who couldn’t get along, my mother who often hated (and for good reason) her parents, an aunt who died of suicide, and my brother…all buried in the same six by twelve foot area. Somewhere else my great grandparents are buried and many other family members as well. So, in a sense my mother will be there.
I like to think that now, in the realm of the after life, when all divisions cease, that my family will look upon us today and bless this occasion. Reconciliation is a process.
All of my life I have been a person of prayer. I have prayed to God for strength, to know and trust in God’s presence, to not feel alone even when I was terribly alone, and to live a life that reveals God’s love and grace in and through me. I do believe that God lives in mutuality, invites us to become God’s partners in life, in living healthy lives.
Today my family and I take one more step toward living into that which God created us to be, a family who loves one another, celebrates life, and is there through thick and thin. Today is one more step toward healing old wounds. Today is a day of love.
I think my brother would be very pleased.
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