The Cousin was early despite coming from far. He walked into the funeral home alone, but hoping to find his two cousins. He asked an attendant if the family were here.
“Yes”, he said, “but I think they are in a room gathering before we start.”
The Cousin nodded, and exited the building to get some more fresh air after his long drive.
His aunt had been very special for him, a tough as nails woman who knew so much pain and suffering as a child. The Depression was a very unkind era to grow up in, and it was not uncommon for poverty and death to split families apart. Though that background made her strict and unflinching, it never clouded her ability to show great love and kindness. When the Cousin was a boy, she had always been there for him when he needed her.
As he walked in the gently warming sunlight he recalled how he had been there for her too when she had lost the middle cousin, more even then her husband and other children. The Cousin and his aunt had had a bond together formed in tragedies.
And now she was gone, too.
The Cousin walked back into the funeral home. There in the lobby was his baby cousin with her husband. Standing beside her was another man the Cousin did not recognize. He was well dressed and sported a gray goatee with a full head of hair. Goateed Man was silent. But he watched closely as the Cousin hugged and kissed his baby cousin. They spoke tenderly for 3 or 4 minutes, Goateed Man never yielding them appropriate space.
Finally Goateed Man, his deep blue eyes blazing fiercely addressed the Cousin.
“You have absolutely no idea who I am, do you?”
The unmistakable lilt in the voice along with its gentleness shook the Cousin to his core. Embarrassed him. Shamed him. His face flushed.
How could he not have recognized his own cousin? Impossible!
A year apart in age , they had played as brothers when children, most times inseparable. Church picnics, Cub Scouts, sports teams. Running through the bush behind the cousins’ home, wild free spirits. They reveled in the other’s courage and daring, pushing limits, one always covering for the other when they inevitably got into trouble.
It had been years since they had seen each other. Since the death of the cousin’s younger brother. And no communication in that long time interval.
Though best of friends as children, they had always been different, only the blue eyes the same. The Cousin with his mother’s, and cousin those of his father. Eyes than shone a warm and deep hue … until provoked when they turned an icy cobalt.
“Oh my God” gasped the Cousin as he grasped then hugged warmly Goateed Man.
“Where did the beard come from?”
His cousin just smiled back at him. “I’ve had it for a few years,” he said. “I look good with it don’t you think?”
“Yes you do!” the Cousin shot back
“You need to get one too,” said the cousin. “You were always the thinker in the family.”
The rest of the afternoon, as when they were 10, they were inseparable. They caught up on lives, laughed over their pasts and briefly became brothers again.
That evening on the drive home the Cousin couldn’t help but weep.
For his aunt.
And for his lost cousin