Dealing with death can be draining. If the death is unexpected, shock can overwhelm the emotions and a sense of loss that initiate the grieving process. But when that is not the case, when the death of a loved one is a long time coming, that process is much different. Maybe it's because I'm much older now, or maybe it's because I understand what it means to celebrate life. Whatever the cause I'm thankful that this experience was not traumatic.
We had my Dad's memorial this past weekend. It was a really good time. We had food from his favorite Chinese place, attendees were encouraged to pick out and wear one of his ties as a keepsake, and there were friends and music, and a good amount of laughter. My cousin Mary Helen who accompanied my 80-year old Aunt, put together a great memory board. We had photo albums, his Air Force uniform, and what turned out to be a crowd favorite, the "beefcake" picture by the bar.
Overall it was a great reminder of what it means to be surrounded by friends and family. Later in the weekend, when my cousin from Texas noted how many people we seem to know, I explained to her that we don't have a lot of family here, and what we do have is scattered across the state, so we made our own family. "It's more of a tribe," I told her.
Although the concept of the Urban Tribe became more main stream with television shows like Friends, and Seinfeld, looking back I recognize that I learned the practice from my parents. At the age of 21 and 22 settled in Vallejo, California, not knowing a soul, but they made friends and connections, made careers and made a life.
I realize now, how lucky I am to have had that example. Although my parents were largely square, and played by the rules, no one could ever say that they didn't do brave things. It was a great lesson learned. I just hope my kids will be so lucky.