Several times in the past few weeks, I’ve tried to write this post but every time the tears started flowing as I tried to find just the right words to honor two of my grandparents descendants that we had to say goodbye to this year.
During the week leading up to Christmas, the two suddenly became three and again I struggled.
Then without warning, the words I had struggled to write to pay tribute to two first cousins and an uncle suddenly started flowing as I reflected on not what I lost with their passing but what I had gained by having each one of them in my lives.
Cousin Vera was 20 years my senior.
When I was a kid, I remember Vera loved soap operas. She was my baby sister when I was in elementary school. So, through Cousin Vera, I was introduced to the world of Mrs. Chancellor, Jill, Snapper, Brock and the Brooks sisters of The Young and the Restless. The Edge of Night was our other favorite soap opera, although I don’t remember any of the characters from it.
I use to love for Cousin Vera to press my hair. She was the only one that I never feared burning me with the pressing comb. Mom and I always thought she missed her calling by not doing hair.
The best thing that she gave me was one of my first buds, her oldest, my cousin Daryl, who was one year younger than me. I tell ya until we hit junior high, he and I were practically joined at the hip or at least it felt like it. It helped that Cousin Vera and her family lived with our granddad in his house, which as I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions was one street over from our house.
She was diagnosed with cancer about 4 years ago. Even after she was diagnosed, she was courageous and chaired the last family reunion that was hosted by the North Carolina branch of the Pierce descendants. On 15 June 2010, her battle with cancer was over as it had the last word.
A few weeks ago, I posted a picture of my big cousin Ann and me for Wordless Wednesday. Shortly after I posted that picture, she passed. In fact, she passed while I was in Georgia for the Atlanta Family History Expo and my first research trip.
Ann, Cousin Vera’s younger sister, actually babysat me before her big sister did. Ann always recalled that I was always threatening to tell my mother on her about something. Meanwhile, I always remembered her washing my mouth out with soap although she swore she never did that.
One of the most interesting things about Ann is that outside of her North Carolina family (includes grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, first cousins and first cousin’s descendants) she’s known by her first name Elizabeth or Liz for short. When you start talking about Ann to family outside of North Carolina, they are like who’s that? Then you have to remember that they know her by her first name.
From my earliest days of researching, Cousin Ann was always pushing me to write a book about our family history and even offered to help write it. She mentioned it again the last time I talked to her, which was a few weeks before her death. I always said no because….well I had a lot of excuses. However, since I’ve been blogging, I’ve begun to think about doing a book about our family and my research even if it’s just for family. Ann’s passing has made me want to do it even more especially since I know how important learning about her ancestral past was to her.
Cousin Ann was also battling the cancer demon and once again it won. We lost her on 14 November 2010, exactly five months after the loss of her sister.
Uncle Melvin was 96 years young and the second of my maternal grandparents' children. He was part of their “Georgia” kids. I suppose we / I should have been expecting that his days were possibly numbered given the numerous health problems he’s had of late. But as the last uncle on my maternal side, blood or otherwise, it just seemed like he would be there forever or maybe I just didn’t want to think about it.
From my childhood years, there is no one special moment that stands out. Like the rest of my aunts and uncles, Uncle Melvin and Aunt Dot, supported me in some of my early endeavors. While I was a Girl Scout, I could always count on them to be among my first customers each year for Girl Scout cookies.
There was one recent special moment. Through the years, I had never given Uncle Melvin anything for his birthday but this year, even though it was several weeks late, I just had to give him a little something. So, one weekend when I was in the hometown, mom and I went to his house, where I hand delivered the belated birthday card, which had a small gift of cash inside. Uncle Melvin was in good spirits that day. He read aloud the card that I had given him. I didn’t even realize that’s what he was doing as I was too busy talking to Aunt Dot and getting caught up on how my cousins were doing. Mom had to tell me to be quiet so that Uncle Melvin could read the card. After Uncle Melvin finished reading the card, mom and I stayed a little longer and visited a bit more before we had to leave. On the way out, I gave my Uncle a hug and a kiss and told him that the next time I was on that side of our hometown, I would be sure to stop in and say hello.
Uncle Melvin’s earthly journey concluded on 20 December 2010.