When my cousin, Maryann called and said she was going out to see her elder brother Saturday, would I like to come, I knew it was something I had to do.
Jerry, the only cousin on both sides of my family who is older than I am, by four years, is dying. He and his wife with him, fought the good fight, he went through multiple rounds of chemo and then radiation and now his liver and kidneys are shutting down and the medical prognosis was that he might have two weeks left. His wife didn’t think he’d last a full two weeks.
Maryann, her daughter and I headed out to snow country to their home. After slipping off jackets and caps we filed into the family room where Jerry was propped up by assorted pillows on a hospital bed. We took turns going up to Jerry and talking to him. His voice was very soft and it was hard for him to make himself understood. I told him I remembered all the fun we had long ago when we were all younger and thinner. There were the Thanksgivings in my Aunt and Uncle’s basement with a most savory meal, the picnics in the back yard where my Uncle barbequed hamburgers and hot dogs on the outdoor grill he made. There were always an endless assortment of fancy cookies and cakes my Aunt baked and the coffee to wash down the delicacies.
Right out of high school Jerry joined the Navy and had 3 Mediterranean cruises on the U.S.S. Saratoga, an aircraft carrier. I used to write him letters and he introduced me to one of his buddies so I could write to him and we did that for a few years and when they left the service I got to meet his friend and we dated briefly before he went on to college in his hometown up in Michigan. Since then my cousin and I both looked for him but to no avail.
Here we sat in the family room sipping coffee while memories floated forward. By now his daughter, son-in-law and their three almost adult children gathered. When his wife came into the room, she said that one of the cousins from another side of the family would lead us all at the memorial service in singing For he’s a jolly good fellow, per Jerry’s request, so she thought we should gather in a closer circle and sing it now while Jerry was with us, and we did just that.
At this point Maryann, her daughter and I were moving forward to say goodbye to Jerry. I saw the tears drop as Maryann said her farewell to her big brother. As I approached him and took his hand, I said I was not going to say goodbye, but rather, until we meet again! By that time I was shaken and in tears, knowing I would never see this cousin alive again.
In the kitchen everyone was hugging and crying and knowing it would not be long before we would all meet again for the memorial.