A year ago on this day, we lost the last of four great family members. The ruling matriarchy of my family, if you will. The binding ties that brought us all together.
My family is quite different. We are large, we are loud, and we are pretty damn proud of ourselves and what we’ve grown our legacy to be. Our family gatherings were so big we had to rent out rooms to fit everybody. Growing up in such a big but tight-knit family was such an incredible blessing.
The core four, however, was the heart and soul of us all—Great Uncle John, Great Aunt Helen, Grandma Irene, and Grandpa Marvin. These four were solid. They molded each and every one of us in different ways and helped us grow to be impactful and loving people.
Though we knew growing up with the four of them being so close together was incredible, we also knew that meant when one went, they would all decide to leave together. After the first passed, it took less than eight months for the rest to follow. All peacefully, all in their sleep, and each closely following the other.
Though they all left in a hurry, and though those scars still burn sometimes, they left us with more than good memories and empty houses. They gave us so many gifts to keep and pass on to future generations, to friends and other loved ones.
They taught us the importance of bringing family together, of making connections with each other a priority. Massive holidays became a regular thing for us, and we always made time for each other’s graduations and weddings and birthdays. I felt like I was a part of something, and I know if it weren’t for the four of them that wouldn’t have been ingrained so deeply in all of us.
They showed us what it was like to have a healthy and lasting relationship. Sure, they must have had issues as all couples do. But they stuck by each other because they really wanted to, because they cared about each other for so long that there was no other option but to try. They looked at each other like you only dream about someone looking at you. Like the moon and the sun and the stars didn’t matter as long as they were there. It was simple and beautiful and indescribable. It was perfectly imperfect, and I cannot explain how wonderful it was to watch.
They taught us discipline. They taught us what it meant to work and work hard. Things in life had to be earned, not given, and it granted me that mindset growing up. It made me, and many of us, into the workers we are today. It was a skill I might not have gained anywhere else.
They taught us what it meant to value the little things. You have no idea what some homemade bread, thoughtful quotes and words, or some unbelievable pancakes can do for a person. Truly, the tiny moments with these four are what make up the majority of my memories, and I cherish every second.
Above all, and I think what I’ll take with me every year that passes by, they taught us love. It wasn’t anything crazy; it’s nothing people make movies about, just grounded and pure love. They just loved all of us, and that was that. We didn’t have to prove ourselves to earn their love; they just gave it to us.
The pain of their absence hurts sometimes. It probably always will, though the ache will dull over time. But the love they left behind, the love they instilled in all of us, that will never leave. That will always stay, even after most of us are gone.
I thank them for the memories, the laughter, the stir-fry and the pancakes, and the infinite love they left behind. I thank those of us remaining for carrying these characteristics on.
People will pass, but the things they leave behind can stay if you foster them well enough. Let love stick around, even when the sadness creeps in a little bit.
After all, that’s what they would want. Warmth, smiles, and a whole lot of love.