When I was a child, I rarely interacted with any of my extended family members. Uncle Leonard sporadically sat at our table for a fried chicken dinner. Two of my father’s sisters occasionally brought panic with unannounced visits to our home. And I cannot recall a single birthday, holiday, or wedding celebrated with a cousin.
Four of my five brothers each gifted me a sister-in-law. Being wed I gained more. Marriage, divorce, death, and choice can determine who we declare family. One of my stepdaughters once referred to me as “my friend who married my father.” She was grown and married with a child of her own before her dad and I married. This was both an accurate description of our mutual affection and an honest acknowledgement that for her I am more friend than family.
My sister-in-law Sharon died this past summer on an August morning. Four months later, my sister-in-law Bobbie died on Christmas Eve. My childhood did not instill in me the deep appreciation of extended family. The beauty of these women did.
Sharon was younger than me by three years, and Bobbie was a single year older. Sharon had long lived with lupus, spending her final weeks in the hospital with my brother Mel’s utter devotion beside her. Bobbie’s holiday death in her living room shocked us all.
Born on Valentine’s Day, Sharon had a complexion as delicate as her tender soul. As a small girl, she was once chosen to be the special playmate to a bedridden classmate. My brother fell in love with her when she helped him heal after a knee injury. I never heard a complaint from her lips despite years of living with crushing fatigue and pain that robbed her of her career but never her gratitude.
Bobbie was a vibrant redhead with an ever ready smile and an easy laugh. Because we married brothers from the same family, we shared mutual appreciations and mutual frustrations. While her grandchildren were her greatest joy, time on the dance floor was a close second.
The more people you love and the longer you live, the more people you will see leave this earth. Every time it happens to me, the resounding “I wish I had known them more” revisits.
Because my brothers had the wisdom to marry women who could tolerate a Koenig spouse for decades, my joy of sisters-in-law remain in Jan, Andrea, and Penny. Before I have a farewell to them or they have one to me, I vow to know them more while I still can.
Do you have someone in your family you want to know better?
When was the last time you reached out to a member of your extended family?
Have you let your loved ones know who they are to you?