Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tribute to a cousin

Most of us have a lot of cousins. Often, we know them all because our families have stayed knit and there are frequent occasions on which to see them. Sometimes, though, families scatter and the time comes when we know only the ones with whom we grew up, not the subsequent generations beneath.

I was blessed to be Beverly Breder’s cousin. She and I had the common experience of spending our formative years in the care of our grandmother, although for different reasons, and we often reminisced about life in the small Pennsylvania town in which we lived.

Thanks to her love for my mother, her aunt Catherine, Bev was around a lot as I was growing up. She was the teenager I wanted to be like, with her beautiful smile and strawberry blonde, naturally curly hair. She was my sponsor at confirmation when I was 13 and she and her family were often in my parents’ house, filling it with the kind of love and laughter for which they were known. I remember always being envious of what Bev had… a husband who adored her and made her laugh and children who made her eyes light up when she looked at them.

But, we drifted apart, too, like family members do. Still, in the last several years, I was fortunate to reconnect with Bev, to travel with her to visit her husband Bart during his final illness, to drive out to Sweetwater to visit Aunt Bert and to just sit in a diner or restaurant or her apartment talking for hours, never seeming to find enough time to get everything said.

If there is one word that describes the Bev I will always remember, it is “love.” She loved her husband with singular devotion; she cherished her children, then their children and their children’s children. She loved her faith and the hours she gave to St. Nick’s. She loved her friends, old and new, and she loved to laugh and have fun. Her eyes crinkled with amusement when she smiled and her laugh was infectious. We joked that we felt more like teenagers than the old ladies the calendar told us we actually were.

The last time we were together, sitting in Mario’s enjoying Bev’s 80th birthday lunch on March 31st, we talked about our lives, how blessed we were to be surrounded by people who inspired us, valued us and made us feel loved. I don’t think I told Bev then that she was one of those people for me. After all, there would be plenty of time for that later, wouldn't there? There would be more lunches, more times to say “I love you.” We agreed, though, that, given our ages, it would be smart not to put things off any longer… to spend as much time as we could with the people who mattered.

Bev mattered very much to me and everyone who knew and loved her. Her passing leaves our world colder and less bright. I will miss her very much.

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