My family tends to be blessed with longevity. The first family member I remember losing was my great-pepere when I was thirteen. The next was my great-grandmother who passed away at the age of 104 when I was twenty. Her own sister passed away a few years ago. She was 102 at the time.
As you can imagine, things like this make you believe you're invincible. There's this feeling that your family will live forever, or pretty darn close to it. Recent events over the past couple of years have proved the falsity of those beliefs. Never have I attend so many wakes and funeral, memorial services and prayer vigils as I have in the last three years. I suppose that's the price of having loved ones around for so long. They've always been there for us and we assume they always will. We can't imagine life without them.
Loved ones don't stay with us forever, despite what we want to believe. They all age and move on together, in sudden rapid successions.
This past Monday I received news of the passing of a family friend. Mrs. Genevieve Ralph, one of my grandmother's best friends left us on Friday, October 18th. It took me until now to gather my thoughts for this post. Even now, I'm not sure I can do her justice. She was so much more than the person I knew, but this is how I'll remember her.
Going through family photos from the holidays, it's difficult to find one where she didn't make an appearance. Sometimes she's sitting around my grandmother's table, enjoying the meal with us. Other times she's sitting in a chair talking, having stopped by for dessert. When we were younger, she brought me and my brothers and sister presents for Christmas. On my bookshelf I still have copies of The Prince in the Golden Tower and Go In and Out the Window with inscriptions in her slanted handwriting.
Mrs. Ralph was one of the most caring people I know. Supportive always of her friends and family, she surrounded herself with like-minded people. Never one to pull punches, her criticisms were blunt and to the point. The two of us exchanged writing samples, offering feedback and advice. When I started off with my website, she was the first to offer her own stories to be placed in the 'Friend's Work' tab.
Tonight I go to say my final farewell to this wonderful woman. If any of you have a chance to read her work, I encourage you to do so. She was bitten by the writing bug later in life, but her observations are full of stark beauty. Part of me also wants to believe that every time a writer's work is read, their angel get new paper and pens.
Let's give her lots of paper and pens.