Becoming the matriarch of a family

My mother was the oldest sibling in her family. The next oldest was my aunt Carole. When Mama died, I was there and Carole was there. We supported each other, but as the eldest, I honored her, my mother’s sister,  my first babysitter, and my second mother, but she acquiesced to me as the eldest of my mother.

My mother was the matriarch until her death. Her own mother died at 50, when I was but 10. I am the only grandchild who remembers her and the only female grandchild. I am the oldest among all the cousins. After my mother’s death,  I clung to my aunt as long as she could let me, but she clung to me as well. Now it is my turn to step up.

She lost her husband of 68 years this week, and she had only sons, and grandsons. The other females to step in to help as she grieves are her ex-grand daughter-in-law and two great granddaughters. That is immensely helpful, but it is not enough. She needs and wants someone who knows and understands the family history – an elder. That becomes my job. I am now the matriarch who can step in and help her in this transition. Grief is alien to many men and the great grand daughters are too young. It is the eldest female who must step in and become the new matriarch and help the preceding elder bear her grief, Almost all of their friends have preceeded my uncle in death, so she has few friends of her own age she can call on.

I know I am ready for this phase in my life – my mother and my aunt were both great teachers, and I will follow their lead and teach as best I can how to approach death and transition to the next generation – my son, her grandsons, and her great grand sons and daughters and my own granddaughters.

The cycle of life includes the cycle of death. It is a challenge I know I am up for, whether I feel ready or not. It is my duty and my honor to stand at my aunt’s side and help guide her through this time.

I will be in and out of my duties to my broader Big Sur family as I conclude these duties to my more immediate family. I will have some personal things to attend to in the coming week or two, but I will be paying attention to my Big Sur family and our connectedness. It will strengthen me and hold me up as I strengthen my more immediate family. You mean more to me than you know.

26 thoughts on “Becoming the matriarch of a family

  1. You are such a great person. I have never met you but your love for and knowledge about Big Sur, the people there and the environment is comforting and respected. My husband and I care for our parents (88-93 and married over 60 years) and try to be good role models as well. It is tough at times but more rewarding and full of surprises I never imagined would be a part of this journey with our aging parents.
    We are going to miss you but are happy for you and the experience that lie ahead. Happy to know you are going to check in when you can.

  2. Kate, you are an amazing woman, and are much appreciated by so many! Best luck with this transition, incorporating additional responsibilities under your wing! 🦉

  3. As a new resident of the peninsula I have come to appreciate your insight and wisdom. You have taught me much about the Big Sur community and life in general. Thank you.
    Tonight please accept a stranger’s sincere sympathy and hopes that you find comfort in the days ahead. You and your family are in my thoughts…

  4. Kate,

    We have never met. But over the years I have followed your blog. Even as mountain hermits The Sur family is interconnected through the information you provide.

    I am sorry for your loss and extend to you and your family my dearest condolences.

    – Miles Geoffery McBreen

  5. Ah…this is a role you are up to, for sure. Living in Big Sur can bring great clarity about such matters, and I’m sure you have that, and will carry it…with heart….to this responsibility. Carry on Kate.

    PS: as you might know, I stepped up when my step-mother died and moved in with and looked after my father for 8+ years when others were not up to it. It’s what we do when needed.

  6. John’s Mom is in the process of moving on… the last steps started yesterday These transitions are very hard, albeit natural as you say. You wear the mantle well and are a good woman. Thank you Kate.

  7. You words and phrasing are so beautiful to read. It reflects the beauty inside and out of the giving person you are. You share so much with this community. Thank you and blessings for all you do. You are a gift.

  8. I have always been strengthened by words from the Quaker faith… “Proceed as way opens.”

  9. Hi Kate,

    I am reading a book that could be meaningful and pleasurable to you at this time. The Life of Elves by Muriel Barberry.

    Funny as I read your notes to us I was thinking you are The Matriarch of Big Sur…I say this with a large smile! Lyndall Demere

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  10. Condolences to you & your aunt, Kate, I’m sorry for the loss. It can be a great time to look at pics and share stories. You may want to record some of it to carry over into the next generations. It’s amazing what one learns in the stories!

  11. I agree with Lynne D. You, Kate, are the Matriarch of Big Sur.. and a damn fine one too!

  12. Please accept my condolences and prayers for safe travel and strength during this difficult time. My heart hurts for your sad auntie. Thank you for all the wit and wisdom and compassion you share in this blog.

  13. You have been an amazing BigSur Kate and altho I have never met you, your constant updates and strength during this past crazy 2017 have given me hope. You will meet the challenges coming up to be the Matriarch of your amazing family and it is an honor that you are doing this.  It is tough, and worth it. Namaste,Andrea Rule

  14. We love you Kate. Your strength, help and inspiration continue to shed a shining light. Huge Hugs, laura and Victor

  15. Thank you, Laura & Victor. Had a good visit with her and a few others, for a couple days, and now out in Quartzsite for a couple days before the funeral. I left instructions for her ex-granddaughter-in-law, who has moved in for the time being, with my aunts two great-grands. I also made sure my aunt knows I am now her advocate, just as she was her husbands.

    https://bigsurkate.blog

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