The 12 First Cousins with our Aunt Toby (far right) and Uncle Lenny, my Dad (third from the right).

The 12 First Cousins with our Aunt Toby (far right) and Uncle Lenny, my Dad (third from the right).

I grew up in a big family. On my Mom’s side alone, there were fifteen First Cousins.

Our parents taught us the value of family, and of the importance of making the effort to celebrate every simcha (joyous occasion).

As children, we had many happy memories together with our Baube (grandmother), and at each other’s Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. In our 20’s, we danced at each other’s weddings.

But as we got older, we didn’t get to spend as much time together.

Children and jobs and financial concerns began to get in the way of our being able to attend every single celebratory event.

We kept up on Facebook, and I would get to see one or two of my cousins here and there, but it had been a long time since all the First Cousins were together.

Until this past weekend.

Like I said, there were fifteen of us.
But now there are fourteen.
This past year, one committed suicide.
We were all totally shocked when we found out. Devastated. It was unimaginable to us.
And that wasn’t the only terrible thing that happened this past year among us First Cousins.
One cousin got diagnosed with cancer.
And another one is getting divorced.

So many bad things happened this past year, that when one cousin announced that her daughter was getting married, I think that we all felt like it was an important opportunity.

After a suicide and cancer and a divorce all in one year, we needed to reconnect.
We needed to be together.
We understood on a deeply profound level that we MUST somehow find the time and the money and the energy to celebrate the good things in life together.

And I think it was because of these bad things that happened, that twelve out of the remaining fourteen First Cousins were highly motivated to get to Pittsburgh for my cousin’s daughter’s wedding last weekend.

After the shock of the suicide and the cancer and the divorce all in one year, we remembered how important it was to prioritize the simchas.

It felt more important than ever to make the effort to be together again.

And so we came.
From California and Massachusetts and Connecticut and West Virginia, we came.
We came to find comfort in each other’s presence and we came to appreciate that we are lucky enough to have family.
That we are family.

And while we did talk about the suicide and the cancer and the divorce, we talked about all the wonderful things in our lives too!
We talked about weddings and grandchildren and impending births.
We talked about retirement and traveling and taking jobs that give us more freedom.
We talked about our kids and we talked about our parents.
We talked about the past and we talked about the future.
It was kind of amazing!

Some of us hadn’t seen each other in 30 years.

I came home from the wedding with so much gratitude for my family and a renewed determination to stay more connected with each of my cousins. I don’t want to just “like” their pictures on Facebook. I want to know the hardships that each of them carries, so that I can better celebrate their joys.

Do you have a family member you have grown apart from that you could pick up the phone and check on today? It would probably make their day to hear your voice!