Sunday, June 19, 2011

Reunion Blessing

I hadn't seen my cousin, Margaret, for at least fifty-five years! Her parents were abusive and she had a terrible childhood. My parents had absolutely nothing to do with hers. But a couple of summers when we were kids, she and her brother were sent from their house in Redding to visit relatives in Alhambra where we lived. They stayed with us a few days. It was clear that Mom loved 'Margie' (pronounced with the g as in gag).
After those two summers when we couldn't have been more than ten, we never saw the cousins again. I had four other cousins on that side of the family I hadn't seen since I was three. Their mother, my aunt, Mary Evelyn, tracked us down about twenty years ago, and I adored her. So did my Mom, as I discovered when they met again. But I had still not reconnected with any of those cousins.
I finally located Mary Evelyn’s four through Facebook! And Suzanne, the one closest in age to me, re-connected me with Margaret. (She's not on Facebook.)
On Memorial Day weekend, I actually got to meet two of the four cousins at a barbecue Roger and his wife, Ingrid, held at their house. Roger, Suzanne and I had a wonderful reunion, and discovered we had a lot in common.
Margaret was supposed to be there, too, but she had to come to Fountain Valley for a family crisis. I invited her for a visit the following Sunday. We were finally able to answer long-standing questions about our lives. Because of Margaret, I finally discovered why my mother had kept us away from some of my dad's relatives, even though they lived in the same town. We didn't even know about them until we were adults, by which time they had died.
I'd always believed that Mom's prejudices were the reason. (They were Catholic, and she was anti-Catholic.) Now I believe she was actually protecting us from them. (The empirical evidence that supports this is that my dad also kept us and himself from them when he was alive.) Suddenly, many of the missing puzzle pieces fell into place for both me and my brother, Ron.
Margaret enjoyed worship with us, and then we went to visit my mother.
She has been under hospice care again for the past few weeks. (She had hospice a year ago February but was removed when she dramatically improved.) She’d been sleeping most of the time, and we were often unable to rouse her when we visited. When we were, she’d mostly opened her eyes, obviously without understanding anything we said. When my aunt and uncle went to see her about a month ago, they were also unable to wake her.
But that Sunday, after a little prodding, she stirred. One of her caregivers had put lipstick on her as if in anticipation of Margaret's visit! (They don't usually do this.)
She opened her eyes, and I said, "Your niece 'Margie' is here to see you." She smiled! She always said she loved 'Margie' and had babysat her before I was born.
Margaret began to talk to Mom, telling her how much she’d always loved and admired her. Mom smiled again. Then Margaret told her she hadn't followed her dad's abusive religion, and Mom actually laughed! She doesn't make any sounds these days, but it was clear that she not only understood but was amused and pleased.
When Margaret told her she'd married a younger man, Mom grinned. I explained to Margaret that it was because she, too, had married a much younger man. My stepfather was sixteen years younger than Mom. They were married for six years, and then divorced. But the age difference had absolutely nothing to do with their separation. The marriage was a total disaster, but the divorce was a smashing success! They remained best friends until his death about twenty years later. And as far as he was concerned, the divorce never happened. She was his wife until the day he died. And they loved each other very much.
We were both able to reassure Mom (again) that when it was time, she could let go, we'd be okay, and were confident that she'd be with God. I hoped the reassurance from Margaret might have been the permission she needed. Larry and I have both told her this several times, but so far she hasn't been ready to give up on life. She has little quality left and it’s painful to see her continue.
As we left, we each gave her a kiss and told her we loved her. When it was Margaret's turn, Mom turned to her and mouthed the words, "I love you, too."
What amazing joy for all of us. Margaret's visit brought a huge ray of sunshine into Mother's seemingly perpetual darkness.
I can only pray that perhaps seeing Margaret again was necessary for her to feel that she had completed her job here with us. But the gift of the time we spent with her that day was absolutely priceless and an amazing gift.
We enjoyed lunch with Margaret and then spent several hours looking at pictures and comparing stories. I called my brother, and he was able to have a chat with her. He called back later and was obviously thrilled to have talked to her.
It may have taken all of us many years to reunite, but what a joy that reunion has been! And what a terrific blessing!