Not long before Christmas, one of the remaining two sisters-in-law of Annie left this world. This woman was 92 when she died, and had been experiencing an increasing number of health issues which were upon her. And so, while her immediate family, in particular, were sad about their loss, the funeral was a celebration of her life and of family ties. At this funeral, a nephew of the deceased person, who always had a good voice and sang in choirs for years, made this celebration all the more pleasant by cheerfully raising his voice in song. I was unable to attend that funeral, and I recall saying to Philippe that no doubt there would be more such gatherings down the road, but hopefully not too soon.
Unfortunately, this same group gathered for another family celebration of life all too soon. Within about a month of that previous funeral, the 78-year-old family member who sang at the previous such occasion died suddenly of a massive heart attack, and we gathered once again. This funeral was filled with song and amazing speeches, offered by family members, friends, former teaching colleagues, and former grateful students who praised the teacher who instilled in them a love of biology. Following the official gathering, the majority of the family members toddled off for dinner. My husband and I strategically placed Annie Oakley at about an equal distance from each end of the table, so she had at least a shot at hearing most of the conversation. When stories turned to early days of previous generations of the family, and into the current generations, Annie was in her glory, with several of her remaining nephews asking her questions about family members, moves from Alberta to British Columbia and from Ontario to Alberta.
As someone at a distance from the conversations about the olden days, I was thrilled to see the middle aged family members not only involve Annie in the conversation, but defer to her when it came to who did what and when over the years. It didn’t really matter if Annie was completely correct about her recollection. Rather, it was most important that Annie played a key role in remembering the old times. And, in that spirit of family, your call to action is to accommodate the elders in your family dynamics as much as possible, knowing that the older family members amongst you may not be alive for future such celebrations. They still can offer wonderful glimpses into the family history. Further, while I am calling you to action, I invite you to share some stories in the comments on this blog, so everyone can benefit from a variety of voices and experiences, rather than just mine.
Yours in caregiving …