Valued cousin left many cherished gifts

Published 9:34 am Monday, October 24, 2011

Column: Something About Nothing

“Appreciate what you have before time teaches you to appreciate what you had.” This quote by an unknown source has been rattling through my mind, gracing my thoughts and causing me to examine my life.

I lost a very valued friend and cousin recently. Her name was Arlene. Arlene was there when I needed a friend to help me weed through years of living left by my mother. Arlene was there when I needed a friend because my mother was having bad days and causing me to have a great deal of anguish.

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Arlene could weave rugs and cook the best meals. Arlene always had a smile on her face and she loved people. I was lucky enough to be one of those people that she always had time for. I do not know if I ever told her how much I appreciated her. I don’t know if I took the time. I hope she knew.

Time set in and Arlene developed health problems and was in a nursing home. I was always to going to visit but I never did. I was not there for someone that was there for me. I will always regret that. I cannot change the fact that I did not visit. I can’t change the past. The fact that I let someone down that was there for me is causing me to examine how I go forward with my life.

At the funeral home I saw cousins and relatives I had not seen for 40 years. As I gazed around the room I was struck with an awe of God’s creation. I could look at each and every person that were blood relatives and know who their parents were, who their grandparents were and who their great grandparents were. I could tell this by looking at their faces. The genes of their ancestors had been passed down to them.

It was eerie looking into my cousin’s faces and seeing aunts and uncles that are now resting with God. Their legacy lives on in the faces of their descendants. I was so captured in the gift of remembrance because of those faces.

Later in the quietness of the evening I was remembering those faces and a strange thought entered my head. What if all of those people had had plastic surgery? They wouldn’t look like their parents or grandparents anymore. When my mom and dad and aunts and uncles were living we weren’t living in a plastic world. They were who they were; noses, cheeks, baggy eyes and all.

In the plastic world we live in people change what they don’t like that about their faces and bodies. They change what was inherited. They change their legacy.

I hope my cousin Gary was complimented when I told him he looked like his father. His father was a neat guy. My middle son looks just like my dad when my dad was his age. It makes me teary sometimes when I look at him and remember my dad.

I would suspect my ancestors would be proud of the way they looked. I would suspect they would be proud of the lines on their faces because of the hard work it represented. I would suspect they would be proud of their noses and eyes and features that represented those that had gone before them. I would suspect that because they were proud of their families and their heritage. They would not erase that by changing their facial features.

I don’t know if I would have felt this way when I was younger and had lived in today’s world. A world bombarded with ads and media pressure to have perfect features. A world that tells us that our inherited features if not perfect make us feel inadequate. I do not know if I would have opted for the unattainable perfection in features. Time and experience has taught me to appreciate what has been passed down to me.

Arlene taught me to appreciate the gift of laughter. Arlene taught me to appreciate the fact that perhaps I was creative. This week Arlene has taught me that I need to take time to say thank you before it is too late. I need to take time for the people in my life that are important to me before it is too late. I hope when I start forgetting that, and I will because it is human, that I will have a nudge or whisper in my mind from an angel that reminds me.

Funerals are a time to honor those we loved that left us but they also are a time to reconnect with those we haven’t seen in a while and look at the legacy of family. It is one of the best gifts of life.


Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at