Don't worry, I'm not going to start quoting Elton John lyrics...
Wednesday I learned that one of my many cousins died (actually, a first cousin once removed, but we don't make those distinctions in my family). He was one of the ones who I would probably recognize if we were in a family grouping but not if we met on the street, and I don't think he was ever quite sure who I was unless someone identified me as my mother's child. That was ok, because that side of the family is pretty large.
Because he was a Jew, the burial needed to be quick, so there was about 36 hours notice (according to Jewish law, burial should be withing 24 hours, but with families so spread out these days, usually it's a little longer). I called my parents to make sure they knew - they did, but couldn't come because another cousin, on my father's side, was visiting - and then I called my uncle in Brooklyn to see if I could give him and my aunt a ride (like most people living in the city, they don't own a car). We arranged that I would pick him up at 5am Friday so we could make the 10am Brookline (MA) funeral with time to spare.
My family has a history of bad eulogies so you can imagine my pleasure at the two that were given here: short, sweet, informative, loving and did I mention short? You got a real sense of who this intensely private person was (so private, in fact, that for the first 11 years of his battle with prostate cancer, no one - not even his siblings - knew, and he got upset when his brother visited him in the hospital!) and knew he would be missed.
After the internment (there's nothing like driving through Boston with a police escort!), we headed to his sister's house for shiva. There, the talk was mostly about health and health care; because this is a Massachusetts based family, they are (most of them) pro-the Obama health plan, based on the plan enacted under Romney. But we also talked about the family's history of prostate, colon and breast cancer. It's surprising to me that my mother is one of the few women in the family who hasn't had it - her two female cousins have, her mother died from it, and two of her mother's sisters had it. One cousin said she'd been tested for the "breast cancer gene", was told she did not carry it, but still had gotten breast cancer. Many of the men in the family have had prostate cancer, and colon cancer has killed at least three of my relatives.
Anyway, the long day ended with me at Thing One's, and then yesterday we brought The Girls up to my place for their summer vacation. There's some settling in that needs to be done! Last night, Bogie and Mallory were - as usual - sleeping with me, not under the covers in this heat but at the end of the bed.
At 1:30am we were woken by an ungodly howl, and the sounds of two animals fighting. To the death. After about 15 minutes, during which Bogie and Mallory crept to the top of the bed and tried to hide under me and my pillows and Greta raced back into the front bedroom, it was clear that the fight was over. A small yelp - it sounded like a dog to me - came. Then another. A little fainter. Etc. 15 minutes of sporadic, progressively more spaced out and fainter (not further away, just fainter) yelps later... silence.
I'm one of those who can barely read about animals being mistreated, and you really want to steer me far, far from the pet adoption days at the local store. So naturally, I cried (The Herd really hates it when their human leaks, by the way).
And I thought of my cousin, how his fight with cancer was a little like the one that had just happened. Fierce, painful... and ultimately, silence.