Cousins, Daughters, Sisters –Family 

When I was very small, I attended the funeral of my grandfather —my father’s father. I remember standing by the casket, having no active memory of the man lying there. I told my brother that we should try to cry. It was a funeral, after all, and even though this was my first funeral, perhaps I had heard in a story somewhere that people are to cry at them. My attempt at forced weeping was unconvincing even to myself.

Sometime during the day photographs were taken. Each adult child of the man in the casket posed with his or her spouse, their children, and my grandmother. I don’t know in who’s album that photo of my father and mother, three brothers and me ended up; I only know we took photos because I have the photograph of my cousin, her husband, and their children taken on that day.

I remembered nothing from that day except that the cousin’s name was June and she  was the June my aunt expected me to physically mirror when I would become an adult, because I apparently looked so much like her as a child that I couldn’t possibly grow any other direction.

Within a few years, my grandmother also passed away. I vaguely remember attending that funeral, but as I had become accustomed to funerals- having attended one- I held on to few details except meeting the cousin who looked almost identical to my own brother. Apparently certain genes ran strong on my father’s side. I don’t remember the presence of my cousin June, although I’m sure she must have also been there. I can now picture the introvert that I was hiding behind my mother’s skirt for most of the day.

Every few years after the funerals, my dear Aunt Daisy would visit us in Alabama. The greeting as she walked through the front door and looked at me was always the same: “You look just like my June.” I didn’t know who June was, really, but she was my beloved Aunt Daisy’s so I knew she must be special and I liked the idea of looking “just like her.” The idea of looking like someone in my family whom I didn’t know held a beautiful mystery for me.

From the funeral photograph, I knew June had daughters, and I thought I bore a striking resemblance to one. As I grew, I wondered why we didn’t know them better. Every year meant spending the summer with my mother’s family. Two weeks out of every summer- sometimes more- I played at the lake or romped in the living room or yard of one aunt or another with my maternal side cousins. I memorized every expression of  their faces, and I knew the sound of each voice in any mood. They were family. My paternal side cousins, on the other hand, were simply a memory from funerals, and an allusion to what I would see in the mirror when I grew up.

Social media can be a way of bringing people together– or tearing them apart. Bold expressions and disagreement of religious or political beliefs can divide families.

Perhaps when one is family, one expects more and tolerates fewer differences. I have experienced this myself. And, geography has separated other family members from me for many years.  I know the love is there, but there is much to be said for having someone who can take one child home with them while I work through the crisis of another.  For whichever reason, I was without family near me during many major events and more than one crisis. I learned during these times that surrounding myself with the right friends means always having family.

But, like I said before, social media can bring people together too. I don’t remember how long ago it was, but through a search of my own last name, I found June’s daughters, and for years we have been ‘friends’. We watch major events play out through posts shared with each other, as well as private messages that we occasionally send. We have typed the words of affection and told the stories of our lives in a small message screen sharing the pain of the death of a child as well congratulations due to the graduation of another.

And the other day it hit me.

Since I was a child and stood somewhere in the room with them and the man in the casket, I had not heard their voices. Although we had discussed through messaging the possibility of me traveling to visit them, and shared poetic tears on the computer screen, we had never actually spoken. I picked up my phone and confirmed that I had indeed put their numbers in my phone ‘in case I ever needed them.’ I decided that even though there was no crisis, and even though I was in a good place emotionally, I needed them. And I simply clicked the box next to one of June’s daughters’ names.

It went to voicemail.

But I spoke. I wasn’t sure I had the correct number after all as I left my brief message on the automated voice mail. But in some odd way, I had reached her.

I missed a call today, as I was working when the phone rang, and we’re not permitted phone calls on shift. I did, however, check the voicemail. And I heard the voice of June’s daughter. It was as familiar as any voice I had heard my entire life. It was a voice that I hear in my head when I speak, or when my daughter speaks. It might not mimic the same sound waves; I am not referring to some genetic frequency that I could expect anyone else to hear. I am talking about that sound that comes from inside that says, “this is family.”

And it grounded me. Even though at times I have had to choose women outside my family for support,  and I have adopted sisters to stand in the place of family during the most difficult times of my life, that voice said that I belonged to a unit that had been chosen for me– before I was.

And I wept a little at the sound of June’s daughter’s voice.


Linda Turner
Linda Turner
Linda Turner is a writer and photographer for her blog Dancing with Scapulars, where she chronicles the journey with her children toward Heaven. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Troy State University, with studies in Human Services, Corrections, and Criminal Justice, and is presently working toward her MS in Mental Health with an emphasis on grief and bereavement. Linda is certified as an End-of-Life Doula through the University of Vermont and trained as a labor and birth doula. Linda's writing focuses on themes of healing, compassion, and moving forward through trials, drawing from her life experiences as a Catholic home-schooling single mom, as a mother of a childhood cancer survivor, a mother of a child with neuro-biological disorders, and with her ministry as a photographer with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and eldercare. She lives in the Texas countryside in a fixer-upper farmhouse with her flocks of children, sheep, and chickens, one German Shepherd- and far too many cats.

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  1. It is sad when families emotionally move away from each other for whatever reason. When my sister (of blessed memory) my father (of blessed memory) and finally my mother (of blessed memory) at times the graveside funeral was almost like a family reunion except for the cousins, etc. who gravitated to my sister as they seemed to know her and not overly interested in me or my wife. Funerals can have this strange effect on people so to bring them together. I always attribute this to G-d’s will. My sister and I no longer speak due to arguments we had as our mother was deteriorating physically and mentally. I thought her and her husband were too harsh on mom which her aide and some social workers noticed. My wife’s two grown daughters rarely speak to each other and when they do speak a fight breaks out between the two of them. I wish things like this didn’t happen but they do. Thank you, Linda, for sharing your article. My apologies for my rambling comment.

    • Thank you, Larry. I was hoping it would come across as a story to which others could relate, and not simply a journal entry of my own life.