I stopped at the local cemetery the other day, just ’cause it was a quiet, peaceful day, and because I was in an introspective mood, I guess. There are many stops to make there. My mom’s parents, four of her siblings, two of her brothers-in-law, Clem’s parents, his grandparents, his great-grandfather, various aunts and uncles, some cousins, and quite a few close friends. So many memories came literally hurling back, so many fun times, sad times, difficult times, all of them a part of me, of us, and of who we are now. I cried a bit when I got to grandma’s grave, as I always do, cause I miss that amazing woman every single day. I also took a few extra minutes at the grave of mom’s sister, Bea. She was one of a kind, and larger than life, it seemed. They lived in BC when I was young, and often came home to visit. She would always grab us kids and hug and kiss us – so annoying, but man, would I like one of her hugs right now. She worked hard, partied hard, was always dressed to the nines, always smoking, and grabbed the center of attention wherever she went. She said whatever was on her mind, and had a wicked sense of humour. She was always great fun at whatever family gathering was happening, and let me tell you, this family gathers at the drop of a hat. I was shocked to realize she’s been gone for 27 years. I thought of all the gatherings we’ve had since then, and how many times she’s been missed. The ties with her kids, my cousins, have loosened, too, as is natural, I guess. I have forty-five cousins on my mom’s side, many of them quite a bit older than I, so I’ve lost touch with some of them, as happens in life. But I was still shocked to learn last night that Aunt Bea’s son had died of a heart attack at 61. I haven’t seen him since I was a teen-ager, so I really don’t know him, but still, he is my cousin. Blood is thick. Another piece of our huge, boisterous, loud, annoying, loving, giving family is gone. I’m happy for him that it was quick – that’s how I want to go – but heart-broken for his siblings, who were in the midst of preparations for their dad’s 90th birthday celebration. And for his aunts and uncles and cousins who are mourning not just his death but all the missed time with him. But I can just hear his mom: “What the hell, Rod? What are you doing here? I was expecting your dad!!” And it makes me smile. Laughter through tears. It’s what keeps our family going. That, and anticipating the finished puzzle when all of the pieces are together again.