One thing that is certain in life is that we are all “part of a family”. We have parents, grandparents, and possibly siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Over the years, the appearance of a typical family unit has changed. Rarely are families as large as they were in our parent’s generation, most people have left their rural roots behind choosing to dwell in urban settings, and more often than not, today’s families are blended. As the world becomes smaller, family members are often scattered in all directions.
In my family, it seems the only occasion for extended family gatherings is for weddings and funerals. The birth of a new baby always brings great joy and a reminder that the family tree continues to grow. This past weekend my family met in a small cemetery (where my dad is buried) in the countryside close to where my dad was born. We were there to celebrate the lives of a dearly loved uncle and aunt. My uncle was the last surviving of his siblings, and this occasion clearly defined the end of that generation.
Listening to the eulogy sounded similar to the WWII historical fiction stories I love to read. My dad and uncle both joined the army as young men. Soon after arriving in Britain, my uncle, at age 19, met a young woman, (his future wife), who was 15 at the time. He was soon shipped off to fight alongside the allies, and she worked in an ammunition plant. They exchanged letters during the war. At the end of the war, he came back to find her and soon after they were married in the UK. She took a huge leap of faith, leaving behind her family, home, and country to board a ship crossing the Atlantic, and then taking a long train ride across the country to begin a new life. This was a love story that lasted over 70 years.
Years ago, one of my dad’s brothers bought a small corner of this cemetery for family members to be buried in if they so wished. A cousin, who farms close by, helps to oversee the maintenance of the property, ensuring the family plots are always well kept. It’s a quiet, charming pastoral spot. Seeing the headstones of relatives past and visiting with cousins present, I realized we were all descendants of the same grandparents. We’ve chosen different life paths, live in different parts of the country, but there is an undeniable familiarity that brings some comfort knowing that we are all part of something bigger…a family…