When you marry, you not only gain a spouse but you gain the spouse's family as well. The Wife's family (the Family) are a wonderful lot - full of life, love, and the need to party like there's no tomorrow. I was welcomed into the Family with little hesitation and I have grown to love each and every one.
The brightest star of the Family was Aunt Dolores, Dee. Aunt, Grandma, Mom, Sister. What a wonderful person. If there was a beer-drinking-out-of-a-shoe reason to party, she was there. You knew when you received a letter or card from her as the envelope would be covered in shiny, colorful stickers, often having something to do with rainbows or unicorns. I picked out her birthday card this year. I chose one that said: "You are a human Sparkler. Yes you are." Yes, she was.
On Good Friday, the first day of Spring, Aunt Dee peacefully lost her battle with cancer. The wake was held on Tuesday and the funeral was Wednesday. The Wife and I flew in early Tuesday and joined the family that had gathered at Dee's home. Everyone was there. We went out to eat before attending the wake. After the wake the Wife and I joined the Matron of Honor (Dee's daughter), the Best man, the GodSon, and the Altar Boy and this wife. We talked about Dee, religion, politics, and all the other things we talk about when we get together. I usually sit back and just soak it in contributing little but appreciating a lot.
The next day was the funeral. The funeral mass was beautiful. Dee would've loved it. After the funeral we all went to Dee's home to celebrate the life of a wonderful soul.
The 36 hours from the wake to the gathering after the funeral were a roller coaster of emotions. There was unending reminiscing on Dee's life accompanied by raucous laughter ... followed by the free flow of tears. This all reached a crescendo after the family returned to Dee's home after the funeral. Jim Beam, referred to as "Arnold" in honor of Dee's father, was toasted over and over until most of the Family were toasted themselves. Old Family party traditions were continued - drinking beer out of someone's shoe (Aunt Dee's in this occasion), singing the Schnitzelbank, hiding empty bear cans and bottles all over her house (a tradition started after her surprise 75th Birthday party - she was finding them six months after the party), and telling Family stories. New traditions were started - Bailey's Irish Cream will forever be known as "Dee". Dee would've enjoyed the whole thing. I'm sure she was looking down on all of us and just laughing at it all. She will be missed.