My baby sister just told me some sad news. One of my cousins has suddenly passed away. It was totally unexpected (at least by me). I’m beginning to think that, at my age, I should begin to anticipate such news.
We never do, of course, unless there’s some sort of extended illness involved. Even then, I suspect, the expected becomes the unexpected. It’s always sad, and never seems quite real.
I’ve heard it said that your first cousins are your earliest friends. There’s a lot of truth in that statement for many of us. That’s particularly true of my cousin Ellie.
Older and Wiser
Ellie was a few years older and someone I was always happy to call my cousin—even when I was a little kid. She taught me how to dance—at least she tried. My sense of her presence was always as a link between my generation and the old folks. That was never true, of course, but it just seemed like she was older and wiser; but not elderly like our parents (even though our parents were only in their thirties).
By the time we became adults, I was caught up in my own thing and (for much of my life) living in places other than where she lived. During those years, I would occasionally see her—usually at the big events like weddings and family reunions. The last time I saw her, we sat together at the funeral dinner of another of our first cousins.
My family and I are now separated by so many miles that funerals have become the most likely scenarios for our rare get-togethers. Yet, even on such a sad occasion, Ellie and I had a chance to relive a few of life’s early moments. We laughed it up as we spoke about those old dancing lessons. I valued the time we had together at that dinner, but it never dawned on me that it could be the last time we would see each other. Now, of course, I value it even more. I’m so glad it happened.
I Am a Foreigner
There’s a line in one of David’s Psalms where he says, “I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children.” (Psalm 69:8) With the ever increasing mobility of today’s society, that line of Scripture is probably acted out more now than ever before. I, for example, live fifteen hundred miles from most of my kids and grandchildren. It’s a short flight but not one we can take often enough.
I’m not sure how one avoids such situations as time and distance, but I’m hoping the Star Trek transport machine will be invented soon. Until, “Beam me up, Scottie,” becomes a regular part of our vocabulary, I suspect we’ll just have to try harder.
So now, my family (just as many families do) will lay another of our beloved cousins to rest. I don’t dance much anymore; but when I do, I’ll think of you, Ellie. Hope to see you soon.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]