circle of life

All of my life, Thanksgiving was a time to spend the day with family, overeat Thanksgiving dinner, and relish the fact that I had the perfect family life. In my young years, everyone in my family was alive and well. The family was growing in one way or another, but until my grandfather, George Byer passed away in 1980, when I was 24 years old, I had never faced death in any way…never lost a loved one. I think it was then that I realized that things were never going to be the same again. Life would go forward, but there was no guarantee that each new year would find us celebrating with the same loved ones every year. Changes are inevitable, and loved ones going to heaven…it’s all a part of what is known as the circle of life. Still, it leaves me feeling more than a little bit lonely as the holidays, and life in general embark upon irreversible changes time after time.

The first years without your parents are always among the hardest. I never considered the possibility that I could one day be an orphan, and yet, I am. An orphan is, after all, someone whose parents have passed away. We usually think of an orphan as a child, but in reality, most people will become orphaned at some point in their lifetime…unless their parents outlive them. Anyway, I found myself an orphan, and the holidays…every day, in fact…have never been the same. The holiday gatherings are much smaller affairs, as my sisters and I have redefined our holidays around our own families, as opposed to a large gathering of six families. While that is ok, and as it should be, there is still a small feeling of loneliness, because we don’t always see each other on the holidays now. Yes, we try to get together at least once before Christmas and a yearly picnic, just like my mom’s family has done, but the other holidays seem to have drifted into the category of small family gatherings, rather that large family gatherings. And, I have learned that in this life, you have no guarantee that your holidays will be the same from year to year, even if there is no loss in the family, because people also move away, and that changes the face of the holidays.

Still, Thanksgiving is a day to reflect on the things we have to be thankful for, and for me there are many. My daughters and their families are happy and well, and like my parents families did in the past, mine is growing, as my grandson, Chris Petersen and his fiancé, Karen Cruickshank are starting their own little family. We have wonderful friends, my daughter Corrie Petersen’s in-laws, Becky and Duane Skelton, who have graciously included Bob and me into their Thanksgiving holiday, and we can go to my daughter, Amy Royce’s house for gatherings too, or they can come here, so the core of my perfect family is still in there, it’s just different now. While the years have changed the face of our family gatherings, I still have a great family life, and while I can’t call it the perfect family life anymore, because my parents are in Heaven, I can still call it a very blessed family life, and for that I am very thankful.

Bob’s Aunt Marion was a wonderful, hard working woman, who died in 1999 at the age of 72. She always seemed so young and full of life, but I guess that is what comes from staying so busy that you don’t have time to notice advancing age or illness. She raised 8 hard working children, 5 girls and 3 boys. Her youngest son is actually younger than her first grandson.

I was always a little in awe of Aunt Marion. She seemed to have it all together. Nothing phased her, and yet she never made you feel like she better than you, or that you were worthless. We didn’t get to see her as often as we would have liked, but always enjoyed the times we got to spend with her and her family. Her kids were very much like her, so they remind me a lot of their mom.

Aunt Marion’s husband, Uncle John passed away a few days ago on December 13th at the age of 85, and I have found myself thinking about him and the kids a lot. They told us that he worked hard all summer, and apparently didn’t tell them that he had cancer, until it had advanced to the point of much pain. It breaks my heart to think of him suffering in silence, working hard, and hoping that his children…who work with him in the family business, by the way…won’t notice. It’s so hard on the kids to think back, looking for a sign, and wondering if they should have noticed more. It brings quite a lot of guilty feelings and regret. In reality, I’m sure there was nothing they could have done, other than to provide moral support, but if that is all you can do, you feel better if you were given the chance to do it.

I have thought a lot about Aunt Marion through the years, and I’m sure I will do the same with Uncle John. I’m thankful that neither one is in pain anymore, but I wish that they were both still with us. It is always so hard to deal with loss. I know it is natural…the circle of life, but it seems to get harder with each and every loved one that leaves us. I don’t think I like it much…natural or not.

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