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.