Several years ago, PB and I took a long drive across the state and went to visit my cousin, Marjorie. (She was actually my second cousin once removed or something like that.) The woman was the epitome of an elderly spinster relative. She was an only child and never married, but took care of her mother and taught piano lessons in her little unincorporated town. I was always a little scared of Marjorie when, as a child, I accompanied my mother on trips to visit all the old relations every summer. I remembered her as being quick of tongue and blunt of opinion. We never hugged Marjorie. She never seemed all that happy to see us.
Now that I was older, I had a desire to reconnect with the last living relative of that generation. I had heard bits and pieces about Marjorie’s younger days. Something about being engaged to a mysterious man named Tony, whom I was told never to mention on our yearly visits. And something about her entertaining audiences with her violin at the traveling Chautauqua shows and even in Europe. Obviously, I didn’t really know my cousin and so I went to see her in hopes of changing that. I wanted to hear her stories.
We went in early April to the nursing home where she was living. But she wasn’t there. She had died. The previous August. It took the lady at the front desk a few moments, but she located and opened the notebook entitled “Deceased” and there was Marjorie’s name. Six lines up from the bottom of the list. That was all.
Did she die alone? No husband, no children, no family? Did she want it to be so? Did she choose that for her life? Was there a service, a funeral? Was anyone there to share a memory? Is there no one left to tell me about Tony and the virtuoso violinist that traveled the world? Her stories are lost, I fear.
A tear rolled down my cheek as we left. Not because I loved her, but because I missed hearing her story by eight months. I was too late to meet my late cousin.
Our stories need to be told, or written, or recorded, or blogged. Otherwise, they are no more.