On funereal and familial reflections (or the beginning of Intern Year)

I went back home to NH for my paternal grandmother’s funeral. She died about a month ago. She was cremated down in TN. Her ashes were brought down to her daughters in FL. Then, she flew up to NH for this memorial and burial service.

The weekend brought together many disparate parts of my extended family. A cousin with two kids from Texas. An uncle flew in from Korea. Another cousin and her family from Arizona. Retired aunts and uncles residing in Florida. My brother from school in Virginia. Myself from Pennsylvania.

Overall, the weekend went far better than I could have expected. I had some anticipation of a blow-up between the family, of some tensions that have gone unresolved and manifest in conflict. However, the entire family seemed to be on the same page.

My paternal grandmother was a complicated woman. She had complicated relationships with everyone in her life, especially her children. And while that has led to complicated relationships between the siblings, they all seemed to want some level of closure and connection. Even siblings that wanted nothing to do with the funereal weekend found themselves sticking around for meals and conversation longer than they originally planned.

And the extended family seemed to have a good enough time. A 9yo running around loved to be the center of attention. A moody teenager sulking in the background on his phone. Adult first- and second-cousins connecting and reintroducing themselves for the first time since childhood.

To this end, I think the momentum and the goodwill is in place to develop future and regular family gatherings. We will gather together for the sad things, such as funerals and memorial services, no matter what. I imagine we’ll have another death in the family before 2030.

It would be nice to bring everyone around a common dinner table for some good times, sprinkled in between the sad times. I’ve had some recent practice developing these kinds of gatherings, so I look forward to refining my skills in this high-stakes setting.

It felt nice to be a part of an extended family, even if for only one day and one night. I have friends who describe frequent experiences like this while growing up. I think the last time my family gathering together was in my early teens. Over a decade.

I liked knowing that we all had our own lineage in the greater family. There are five siblings that flowed from my paternal grandmother. From there, grandchildren such as myself and great-grandchildren such as my first-cousins and my own son, Joonsu.

I want him to grow up within the context of a greater family. Knowing that he fits within a wider and more diverse tapestry of blood than just the parents and future siblings directly around him.

And if my efforts in developing future family gatherings pays off for him, then I will know that my work was not in vain.

And if all of this spirals out of the death of my paternal grandmother, Chong Suk Lee, then I say that this is a fine legacy for a complicated woman.

Long Form Sundays

On Death Podcast

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