By Julie Shopcake
At my great aunt’s funeral, I met many family members who I never even knew I had. On my mom’s side of the family, years of grudges and hostility led to a pretty decisive split.
“It’s always the women,” my dad said to me.
Gee, thanks, Dad. Maybe he forgot that his daughter is actually a woman, but then again I rarely act in a way that’s considered “traditionally feminine,” so I can’t blame him if he forgot in that moment, as I scratched my crotch and belched.
I’ve heard the stories about who slighted who, and who said what about this person, and that some just seemed stuck on not being able to let things go.
The six pall bearers for the funeral included my brother Michael and cousin Dave. The four others were people we didn’t know, but as Dave let out this silent-but-deadly, heinous fart as my Aunt Louise was rolled down the aisle in her casket, all the pall bearers joined together in a moment of extremely inappropriate laughter, completely oblivious that there was a family feud going on they needed to abide by. I mean, hello?
I can’t help but think that in that moment, as disgusting as it was, that Aunt Lou might have actually been proud. All she ever wanted, as she used to say, was for the family to just “be glad” with each other, and it seemed as though they were doing just that (albeit probably not in the way she imagined).
At the reception, a few family members crossed over “the line” and drank Irish car bombs with us, in memory of good ol’ Aunt Lou. Maybe that’s what everyone needs: to drink more beer. But it’s likely I’ll never see them again, which honestly upsets me. She would have loved to see us all together as we were, and we were on our best behavior to honor the memory of a lady who was a real class act. The only one brave enough to stand in the middle of the battlefield with her arms up, waving at both sides for a ceasefire.
I mean, we’re talking decades of bad blood over things that, at the time may have been a big deal, but are they things we can’t move past? Would we be dishonoring our deceased relatives where the feud began, or would they want us all to get along, like Aunt Lou did?
While playing softball, I met a kid who happened to be a relative of mine from this other side of the family. I didn’t know we were related, and we only found out after we both wished Aunt Lou “happy birthday” on her Facebook wall. He wondered why I was referring to his aunt as my aunt as well.
But this is what it was like – we didn’t even know each other existed. We got along great, but then it seemed like after we made the connection, it got really awkward. Why? Did he not want to talk to me after discovering our family history? Or maybe he thought I didn’t want to talk to him?
My mom said she hoped the grief wouldn’t extend to our generation, but I can’t help but wonder if there are some things that time just can’t heal – not that I wouldn’t make the effort. I would love nothing more than to have a relationship with my cousins.
But all this should speak worlds to my Aunt Lou. She was the last bridge between us, the last one standing who was willing to say she loved all of us. Always perceived as the small and weak one of her family, she proved to be the toughest one of them all.
As a woman, I admire that Aunt Lou was the kind of person who could move past all the petty nonsense when other people in my family just can’t.
I aspire to be the type of lady Aunt Lou was: to appreciate the positive things in life and to be brave enough to stand up for whoever was being slighted in her family. She knew the value of blood and kin, rather than digging deeper into already deep wounds.
And to be the one who laughs at farts during funerals.
Here’s to you, Aunt Lou.
About Julie Shopcake:
Shopcake has had some interesting experiences in her life, and can’t wait to share them all with you. Making you laugh is important to her, but if she makes you stroke your chin and look towards the sky, deep in thought, she’ll chalk it up as a victory.