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My Professional Background - Once upon a time, I wanted to be a motivational speaker. Actually, I was a professional motivational speaker for about 5 years.:

(This one’s for you, Uncle Julius. Me with “Touchdown Jesus” at the heart of the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Indiana.)

Grief is not something every family does well.

Some families grow apart.

Some families curse God.

Some curse each other.

Some families wallow in self-pity.

Some allow greed to overcome them.

But this weekend I had the humbling opportunity to witness a family that grieves well.

My mom’s Uncle Julius (my great-uncle) of South Bend, Indiana, passed away on Friday after a stroke he suffered just days earlier. He was a relatively healthy 81-year-old man whose most debilitating sickness was the broken heart he suffered when his beloved bride passed away a mere 9 months ago from ALS.

My Great-Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Julius are survived by their three children, their spouses, and five grandchildren. Needless to say it has been a difficult year for my precious extended family. But, through their tears, they spent the weekend engaged in what they do best:  laughter.

As my dad and brother prepared to carry Uncle Julius’s casket into the church yesterday, my mom’s cousin said to them, “You know if you drop him, he’ll never forgive you.” A smirk crept across her face, and we all just had to laugh.

As the hearse pulled away from the church on Monday at the stroke of noon, his children and grandchildren cried…and then their tears turned to laughter as a big, smelly garbage truck followed right behind it. That was a moment Uncle Julius would have made some wise crack that would have them all roaring with laughter.

I imagine that Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Julius looked down this weekend on the gatherings in their home and were overjoyed at the love and laughter that took place there. I imagine they listened to the same old stories we’ve all told a thousand times and laughed right along with us. Or at us.

And as we gathered together to eat, look through old photos, post some of the really embarrassing ones on Facebook…

Holy rollers, Batman!

…watch home movies, and share stories, I couldn’t help but notice that this was no ordinary, grief-stricken family. Of course my cousins are heartbroken to lose their parents/grandparents within a year of each other. But what stood out to me most was the way they grieved…

I was humbled when each of my mom’s three cousins insisted that I take crewelwork pieces my Aunt Carolyn made with her own two hands. At least they think she made them. And that’s what I choose to believe. But they’ll never know how much it means to have a piece of my great-aunt and uncle – even though I am just the crazy, Redneck great-niece from Georgia.

I am so thankful for their generosity in the midst of their grief.

I am so humbled by their thoughtfulness as they told us how much their parents loved us.

I am comforted as I consider the saving work of Jesus that will reunite them again one day. And I can see their confidence as they anticipate a family reunion in eternity.

I am honored to call these distant cousins my family.

I am blessed to call them my friends.

And I am a little shocked that Yankees — or “Midwesterners” as they prefer to be called — can be so hospitable.

Well, I suppose that since Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Julius are now both residents of Heaven and not the great State of Indiana, we’ll have to let up on the whole Civil War bit and stick to what we have in common:  hereditary beauty (see Batman photo above) and the ability to laugh through the tears (also see Batman photo above).

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Comments to "How to Grieve Well"

  1. Julia

    September 18, 2012

    I can’t thank you enough for this beautiful tribute, but I can keep on loving you for the rest of my life.

  2. James Halasz

    September 18, 2012

    Katy as I sit here and read this with tears in my eyes I cannot express how much I appreciate you being here for this weekend. God bless you and safe travels. Jim

  3. MC Halasz

    September 18, 2012

    xoxoxo We are lucky that our parents and grand-parents gave us such good examples. Love you!

  4. Nancy Gates

    September 18, 2012

    This was a beautiful tribute to a family I haven’t seen in years. But I do know that they are a very strong family and with each other, they will get through this pain. My love to you all…

  5. Steve White

    September 19, 2012

    As I think how well my Mom’s passing went, I remember looking at the video tribute made by my neice. Photos of family long since forgotten and some never seen by most. We watched, smiled and sometimes laughed at the memories. Then we shared a meal of down home cooked food (Shreveport, Louisiana) and cought up with cousins and grandchildren. In the end it was a great get-together. Thanks for sharing. God Bless You!!!

  6. Pingback: The “Mother” of All Phobias | (Nobody Puts) Katy in a Corner

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