“ …I know it’s an opportunity to assess how you feel about a person, even if you don’t share it out loud.”

Be careful what you wish for; it might come true. Some people say this as a warning, but sometimes it turns out to be a blessing. Let me preface this article and let you know that my mother and I have been going on vacations the last few years because a friend of mine told me of the annual trips she takes with her mother. They like each other, of course, and what a pleasant idea to spend time together, wherever, doing whatever! It was such an appealing concept since I had always thought I would take my dad on a “City Slickers” experience. He’s been gone now for 17 years. It’s truly unbelievable if you’ve lost anyone and you realize how quickly time goes by. So, with great inspiration from my friend’s trip with her mother and the regret of not joining my dad riding horseback on some thousand-acre ranch,

I look forward to traveling with my mother.

As the days of 2021 were quickly passing by, I realized in November that my mother and I had not planned a trip. The universe must have been listening to our phone call about our missed opportunity and a week later my mother’s aunt passed away. The family had decided to have Aunt Ruby’s funeral in little old Ft. Scott, Kansas the weekend before Christmas. Fortunately, the weather was incredibly cooperative with no snow in the forecast, and we decided to make it a road trip. Not exactly the vacation I wanted to spend with my mother, but she’s fun wherever we’ve gone, and her side of the family is the “wild” side. This was going to be a great vacation after all!

My cousin, who’s really like my sister, decided to join us, and the three of us set off on a 10-hour road trip that was just like an afternoon in the salon. Side note: My mother and cousin are hairdressers and if you love your hairdresser like I love both of mine, then you know that salon time flies by as you laugh and chat, solve the world’s problems and walk out looking gorgeous! By the way, we stopped off at the World’s Cleanest Gas Station Restroom in Junction City, Kansas. The restroom bidets had us giggling like little kids. I am sure the staff enjoyed everyone who left that building with silly smiles on their faces.

Our first night in this small town of Ft. Scott was more like a “reunion kick-off party” than a pre-funeral dinner. As mountain residents, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “If you’re lucky enough to live in the mountains, you’re lucky enough.” I equate that to, “If you’re lucky enough to have a great family, you’re lucky enough.” I am one of the lucky ones! Both my parents have large gregarious families, where most get-togethers come with game playing, lots of food, lots of drinking (I don’t know if that is a bragging right that is very healthy) and lots of laughter! In full disclosure, we still have the token odd relative like everyone has in their family, it’s just that there are so many fun family members that the odd duck doesn’t make such an impact. So, when the family greeted each other for dinner that night, it was all smiles and hugs and a few tears of joy and remembrance. Many of my mother’s family grew up in Ft. Scott, living out on Lake Ft. Scott during the ’70s. Can you imagine? They had friends who still lived there who came to pay their respects and catch up on the last 40 years. I met family members I had only seen on Facebook, one of whom is TikTok famous. Guess what? She’s a hairdresser too. We found out that there are actually eight hairdressers on this side of the family. Anyway, the things you learn about your family and your heritage during a weekend-long family get-together are amazing. And you begin to understand more about your parents, their upbringing and maybe some of your own habits.

The pastor performed a sweet service that, in all honesty, he had probably given 100 times before. Yet, it was so relevant coming from a person who has spent so much time with the grief-stricken. It was so appropriate in the moment of our lives, as our family mourned for a mother, a sister, a grandmother, an aunt, a friend. A funeral is a ritual or tradition to celebrate and honor someone who has passed. A purposeful time to say goodbye for the friends and family left behind. I think a funeral is for us, the living. It’s a specific time set aside for us to grieve the loss of that relationship and understand our own mortality. All of which I believe is a good thing, a healthy way to move forward. It’s not that I look forward to funerals, but I know it’s an opportunity to assess how you feel about a person, even if you don’t share it out loud. I watched my mother and her cousins and wondered, what are they thinking about? Are they remembering Aunt Ruby on the dock at the lake? Are they thinking about Uncle Bill? Are they wondering about their own funerals? Aunt Ruby’s eldest son gave her eulogy. He cried, he laughed and expressed feelings that the rest of us felt in our hearts.

We wrapped up the weekend with more stories, more food, more drinking and a large Nertz tournament in the hotel event room. If we are Facebook friends, you’ve seen the photos. We had a great time. Our family took advantage of our time together to make new memories, build new relationships and celebrate a person who made a difference in our lives. I’m lucky enough to be a part of this family that celebrates life, and I hope to share this with my children. They will someday have to say goodbye to me, and I hope that they celebrate my life with a party too!