I Know We’re Family, but What’s Your Name?

Why is it that as we get older, we only see certain people at weddings and funerals? I, too, am a culprit of this. This past week I learned just how bad it has gotten.

Tuesday night, I attended the wake of my Uncle Mac – my father’s brother-in-law. I arrive at the funeral home two hours into the four-hour block of visiting time, and there’s a line out the door. “It’s been like that since I got here two hours ago,” my sister Donna says. Here are all these people, lining up to pay their respects to my uncle — my uncle who I haven’t seen in probably five years, and even then it was very brief. What did Uncle Mac mean to all of these people? How had he touched their lives? I wish I could have sat with my Aunt Virginia and asked her who everyone is and who they are to Uncle Mac.

We rarely see my father’s side of the family. No reason, really. We just never have. Just the same, I took my place in the line and slowly made my way to the casket. What would I say to all the people in the receiving line? I know I am related to them, but I don’t know any of their names. As I scan their faces, I see one man who resembles my brother. The similar features are comforting and familiar.

My mother, being the angel that she is, comes through the line with me and re-introduces me to all of my cousins. What a time to get reacquainted. But they are all gracious and lovely. Some make me try and guess their names. I haven’t seen them in probably 20 or 25 years! Fortunately, being someone who takes comfort in the gathering of information, I had gone to the funeral home’s website and read Uncle Mac’s obituary, where it listed his children’s names (all six of them), so at least I have a mental list from which to guess!

Then the inevitable comments are made. “We should see each other more often.” “Why do we go so long without seeing one another?” “Let this be the launch pad for a family reunion someday.” The intentions are all true and sincere. And I think it would be great to get to know this side of my family, but I fear the busyness of life will sweep in yet again and prevent that from happening.

Wait. Aren’t I a life coach who helps other create the time in their lives for the things they really want? For the people they want to spend more time with? Yes, I am. But I am also human.


5 comments on “I Know We’re Family, but What’s Your Name?

  1. A very entertaining observation you have made. My wife and I have developed a little trick to remember names. Since we are newlyweds, she’ll introduce herself and ask for a name if I don’t introduce her right away.

  2. Kerri,
    Ahhh…why is it that we learn these lessons…and then re-learn them down the road? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the nature of the beast (read, human being) to forget. Perhaps if we “remembered” it would be too much of an emotional burden, too weighty to carry. It’s sort of like childbirth – you go through the pain and say never again! Yet thankfully, we “forget” the painful part of the experience and we find ourselves in labor again. Perhaps we need some sort of amnesia to get through life. Still, these are valuable lessons we should strive to learn from.

  3. Thanks for checking in Ang and Bob. I loved the questions you pose, Bob. I think the discomfort in the receiving lines comes from not knowing what to say to offer your condolences. Or, in my case, greeting family and not knowing who is who!

    I think a wake should be more of a celebration of the deceased’s life and not a mourning of their death. Let’s remember our loved ones for the amazing life they lead and focus less on their departure from the physical world. Understandably, we all need time to grieve – let the gathering at a wake be an opportunity for both. I’m going to make sure mine is a party! I’ve already got a guest list drafted and the music selections chosen!

  4. I love all your posts, Kerri. This one especially. It raises so many questions for me. Why is it so uncomfortable in the recieving line at wakes? Why are we, as a society, so uncomfortable with death? Why do some people have hundreds of folks at their wakes/funerals while others have only a handful? And why do people at weddings and funerals so often say, “Let’s get together more often,” when everyone knows dat just ain’t gonna happen? I love blogs that make you think. And your posts do that for me. Thanks!

  5. Touché my friend, touché!

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