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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hanging with My Cousins

I was honored to officiate at my uncle's burial yesterday. It was held at Riverside National Cemetery, the busiest cemetery in the United States. It's a lovely spot and the outdoor pavilion where we gathered with just family was perfect. My brother's ashes are also interred here. He was in the army for a few years in the 1980's.

My uncle served in Navy during WWII on a destroyer in the South Pacific so he was entitled to military honors. The ceremony was very moving with the playing of taps and guns firing and the folding of the flag for my cousins. I appreciated the dignity with which the young service men performed their tasks. It was pretty special to see them salute the casket as it came out of the hearse draped with the US flag.

Having lived in Europe for so many years, I've missed out on certain family events that I would've liked to have been present for. So being home when Mel passed and being able to officiate the burial was very, very special for me.

After the service, we gathered at the historic Mission Inn in downtown Riverside. This charming and beautiful place has a great history to it, hosting several US Presidents for various occasions throughout the year. We sat outside on a lovely patio surrounded by these wonderful old buildings. It almost felt like we were in Europe.

My family left their families in Illinois in 1965 to move west and pursue life in California.
My mom's family. She was the youngest daughter and endured life with 3 older brothers!
While I loved growing up in California, I did miss out on being part of the big family gatherings that were going on in the mid-west. My immediate family is small but my extended family is big and because my mom was close to her siblings they created an environment for the cousins to thrive and be good friends too. When we'd spend summers in Illinois I just loved being with my cousins. But because there are 11 of us, with me being the second to youngest, I didn't spend that much time with my older cousins. But then two of my mom's nephews moved out to CA and we were with them a bit more. Then my aunt Dorothy and Uncle Mel followed suit and that's why we started having more time with this branch of the family. The fact that my mom's oldest brother, Mel ended up living across the street from them in the mobile home park and the fact that my oldest cousin Mike (Mel's oldest son) ended up living down the street from us now is pretty cool. I'm very grateful that Mike and Susan live nearby. It really does give me a sense of being surrounded by family.

So yesterday when we were gathered with Mel's sons Mike and Steve and their wives, Mike's son Josh, and another cousin, Tony, my mom's brother Dale's oldest, it was pretty neat.
Steve and Vicky, Mel's middle son
Mike and Susan, Mel's oldest, who now live down the street from us
Mike and his son Josh, who is a wonderful young man
My cousin Tony and I. We missed his sisters, the two cousins who I am most close to
on the Nelson side of the family.
We told stories of our parents which are filled with crazy antics that can only be wrought through growing up in a tiny little place like Galesburg, Illinois. We shared memories and laughed a lot. It was a wonderful way to honor the memory of all of our parents, really, for now, the cousins are the oldest surviving generation. I'm grateful for these relationships even though we don't get to see one another very much. Our parents all loved each of us so much. I guess we're just trying to do the same with one another.